“voters” do not have much choice. They are presented with a single candidate in the district where they live. These candidates are chosen by the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland, the governing coalition, which is controlled by the Workers’ Party. There is only one box to tick. Abstaining or voting no would be a dangerous act of treason, given that voting takes place in booths that do not provide any secrecy, and dissenting votes must be posted into a separate ballot box. In this way the population (everyone over 17 is obliged to vote) endorses the 687 deputies in the SPA, a body that, in any case, is merely a rubber-stamp parliament that is rarely convened. In practice the supreme leader, Kim Jong Un, calls the shots, supported by the Presidium, a smaller group of senior officials. (via The Economist explains: How North Korea’s elections work | The Economist)
- elections serve as a form of census, because voting is organised by residential unit. Updating its electoral records gives the government an opportunity to check up on the populace and make sure they are living where they are supposed to (and have not, say, defected to China).
- The whole process highlights an odd thing about sham or rigged elections held in autocratic countries. It seems that even the most despotic leaders (and they do not come much more despotic than Mr Kim) feel the need to pay democracy the back-handed compliment of imitating its outward appearance, if not its underlying political model. North Korea’s leaders seem to take their pantomime polls seriously. Mr Kim is standing in constituency number 111, whereas his father stood in number 333; both numbers are said to bring luck. Based on past experience, the Kims tend not to need it.