North Korea’s parliamentary elections are scheduled for Sunday, and experts in South Korea said the election outcome will serve as a barometer for many political changes in the North, pointing toward the communist country’s overhaul of its power elite, the future of inter-Korean relations and the possibility of a father-to-son power succession.
The North holds elections for the Supreme People’s Assembly, the country’s unicameral rubber-stamp legislature, every five years. Although Assembly members are lawmakers on the surface, they actually hold additional positions - often top spots in the Workers’ Party, military and government. Every five years marks a turning point in the Dear Leader’s regime.
The North’s 1998 election ended the country’s rule under the instructions left by its late founder, Kim Il Sung. The father of current leader Kim Jong-il, Kim Il Sung died in July 1994, but the nation continued to operate under the dead leader’s teachings for four years, until the parliamentary elections brought Kim Jong-il to power.
The 2003 parliamentary elections renewed Kim Jong-il’s position as the country’s National Defense Commission chairman. Since then, Kim has ruled the North with his “Military First” philosophy.
Sunday’s elections will be the 12th since the founding of the state. Though candidates are handpicked by the Workers’ Party and then approved by Kim, the election outcome is expected to show a glimpse of how the 67-year-old Dear Leader will operate the country for the next five years.
“Kim will be 72 years old when the 13th election takes place,” said Professor Kim Yong-hyun of the North Korea Studies Department at Dongguk University. “So, it will be likely that his plan to name a successor will be reflected in the outcome of the upcoming election.”