North Korea ends registration for upcoming election
Thu, Mar 05, 2009

SEOUL, March 5, 2009 (AFP) - North Korea has completed candidate registration for upcoming parliamentary elections, which are seen by some analysts as laying the groundwork for an eventual power transition.

"Servicepersons, workers, farmers and intellectuals" who have devotedly worked for the party, country, people and leader Kim Jong-II were nominated, the official Korean Central News Agency said early Thursday.

The agency, quoting an election committee report, said "the entire electorate" expressed conviction that the nominees "would devote themselves to the sacred struggle to strengthen the government of the Republic, firmly defend the socialist system and build a great prosperous and powerful nation."

The outcome of Sunday's election to the rubber-stamp Supreme People's Assembly is not in doubt. Candidates are picked by the government or the ruling communist party, and only one runs in each seat.

In the last election in 2003, official media boasted a 99.9-percent voter turnout and 100-percent support for every candidate.

But the inauguration of a new assembly is often the prelude to a cabinet reshuffle.

South Korea's state-backed Institute for National Security Strategy has said the North would use the polls to retire elderly politicians and bring in people with specialist knowledge, in an attempt to revive the moribund economy.

The private Institute for Far Eastern Studies has said the "ailing Kim will further strengthen his grasp on the regime" through the poll.

Elections should have been held last year but did not go ahead amid reports that Kim, now 67, suffered a stroke in August.

The new assembly will re-elect Kim as chairman of the National Defence Commission, which supervises the 1.1 million-strong military and is the country's most powerful organ.

"It is also expected that the election will be used to help establish the groundwork for a stable transition of power in the future," IFES said in a recent report.

Kim, who is himself a candidate, last month termed the poll "significant" in terms of reviving the economy by 2012, the 100th anniversary of the birth of his father and founding president Kim II-Sung.

Seoul's Yonhap news agency has said Kim's youngest son Jong-Un is also a candidate, in what it termed the start of a process to designate him as the leader's successor.

Other analysts say there are no clear signs which son, if any, has been chosen.

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