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North Korea makes rare admission after local elections: dissenting votes

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SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea on Tuesday made a rare mention of dissenting votes in recent elections, although analysts dismissed it as an attempt to portray a normal society rather than signaling a significant increase in rights in this authoritarian state.

The lonely North has one of the most controlled societies in the world, with leader Kim Jong Un accused of using a system of cronyism and repression to maintain absolute power.

Reporting the results of Sunday’s election of deputies to the regional people’s congresses, the North’s state media reported that 0.09 percent and 0.13 percent voted against the candidates selected for the provincial and municipal councils, respectively. .

“Among the voters who participated in the ballot, 99.91 percent voted for the candidates for deputies to the provincial people’s congresses… (and) 99.87 percent voted for the candidates for deputies to the city people’s assemblies and counties,” the official news agency said. » said KCNA.

The northern parliament and regional councils serve as a buffer to the ruling Workers’ Party, with their elections typically recording a turnout of more than 99%.

This month’s elections mark the first time North Korea has referred to dissenting votes in local polls since the 1960s, said a South Korean Unification Ministry official responsible for relations with the North. .

Held every four years, the latest regional elections were also the first since North Korea revised its electoral law in August to allow multiple candidates.

“The portrayal of a more democratic society, particularly in comparison to South Korea and the United States, aims to strengthen the legitimacy and authenticity of the regime on the global stage,” said the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada , a think tank, in a report.

A photo released by state media shows Kim casting his vote, standing in front of two ballot boxes – one green for approval and the other red for dissent.

“Discreet voting will likely remain limited as ballot boxes will continue to be visibly monitored,” the report said, adding that the candidate selection process will remain closely controlled by Pyongyang.

Voter turnout fell slightly to 99.63% from 99.98% four years ago, a sign that analysts say could indicate a slight weakening of state control in a country where the voting is considered obligatory.

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