N. Korea holds parliamentary elections


North Korea was set to hold parliamentary elections Sunday, a key political event likely to cement national unity and leader Kim Jong-un’s grip on power amid uncertainty over tough nuclear negotiations with the United States. The communist state will elect new deputies for the Supreme People’s Assembly, its rubber-stamp legislature, in the polls held every five years. They will replace those picked in the first parliamentary elections under the current leader in March 2014. North Korean voters, aged 17 or order, were scheduled to cast their ballots between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. It was not immediately known whether the election process proceeded according to that timetable.


The candidates include workers, farmers, intellectuals and soldiers that are striving to uphold leader Kim’s ideology and leadership, and backing his push for national development, according to the North’s state media. There is only a single candidate registered for each constituency. Observers said that Pyongyang might use the political event to further reinforce national cohesion and have its people coalesce behind its ruler, particularly after last month’s breakup of the Hanoi summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump.


The second Trump-Kim summit on Feb. 27-28 ended without a deal as they played hardball over the scope of Washington’s sanctions relief and Pyongyang’s denuclearization. But both sides appear willing to keep their dialogue alive. The Rodong Sinmun, the daily of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, underscored that the elections come at a “very meaningful” juncture. “The elections this time will strongly show off our people’s unwavering conviction to firmly trust and uphold our supreme leader against all odds,” the newspaper said. “Today’s struggle desperately calls for the function and role of the people’s regime to revitalize the country’s overall economy and enhance people’s livelihoods.”


The voting is largely considered a formality. The official voter turnout was tallied at 99.97 percent for the last election, with 100 percent voting for the approved candidates. The results of the 2014 elections were announced two days after the voting day.


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