North Korean elections: The veneer of democracy

Chris Terry, Former Research Officer

Posted on the 10th March 2014

This weekend the North Korean ‘election’ took place.

Of course, it wasn’t exactly democratic; it wasn’t really even an election. Each seat had only one candidate, and voters had the choice of voting either for them or against them. There is no secret ballot, votes are carried out in the full view of the authorities and those voting ‘against’ even have to place their ballots in a separate box. Voting ‘against’ is a dangerous act of treason, as is abstaining.

And yet the North Korean government takes the elections very seriously. The country’s relatively new leader, Kim Jong-Un, stood for ‘election’ for the first time this year. He won 100% of the vote on 100% turnout. The North Korean news agency KCNA stated: “This is an expression of… people’s absolute support and profound trust in supreme leader Kim Jong-Un as they single-mindedly remain loyal to him, holding him in high esteem.”

Such a statement is an important reminder of the power of democracy as an idea. Even in the most oppressive dictatorship in the world, the regime still attempts to establish a veneer of democracy in an effort to appear legitimate. They may not be fooling anyone, but the fact they are even trying is testament to democracy’s enduring appeal.

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