The North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un remained in his post, although no one elected him. Or at least, so it seems.

The suspect was born after the announcement of the results of the last election in North Korea. On 11th March the state television stations read as usual the names of all the new deputies of the Supreme People’s Assembly, the country’s parliament. Also on the list was Kim Yo-jong, sister of the leader and deputy director of the Propaganda and agitation department. But no one mentioned Kim.

This is the first time it’s happened. At the previous elections, the first since the dictator was in power, the lists presented at the elections – a formality that perhaps would not even deserve this title, being a trivial ratification of the regime’s power – also bore his name. What’s new this time? The analyst Rachel Minyoung Lee has a theory. “In many democratic states the president has no place in parliament. [The fact that Kim was not named] could be part of North Korea’s effort to be perceived as a ‘normal state'”, Lee explained in an interview with the BBC.

elections kim jong un
Image: ED JONES / AFP / Getty Images

HOW ELECTIONS ARE HELD IN NORTH KOREA

The elections for the renewal of parliament in North Korea are held every five years. Voting is compulsory – there are exceptions only for those who are seriously ill or abroad – and citizens must go to the polls early, as a sign of loyalty to the institutions.

On the card there is only one name: that of the candidate member of the constituent assembly for that district. If they approve the choice others have made for them, they slip the card into the urn. Otherwise, they make a cross over the candidate’s name.

The vote is public: every citizen must make this gesture before the presidents of the seat. There is also the possibility of voting in a kind of cabin, but this attitude arouses suspicion, and nobody wants to end up on the proscription lists. Kim and all the members of his family vote the same way. Outside the polling stations, there are tanks and national parades, and citizens dance – no one knows how much spontaneously – to celebrate the event. The results are announced within a few days on the national media, in fanfare broadcasts in which the presenter reads aloud the name and surname of the 687 new members of the assembly.

According to the North Korean national agency KCNA, the vote is an opportunity to “show the solidity and invincibility of the socialist system in which the leader, the party and the masses form a harmonious whole”. International observers, on the other hand, call it a farce. Not only voters can not choose: in parliament there is not even an opposition! The only two formations existing apart from the Korean Labour Party, that of Kim Jong-un, ally each time with Kim himself and cannot, nor dare, oppose his programs.