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June 23, 2017

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North Korea's 'election' records 99.97% turnout

SEOUL--North Korea confirmed Tuesday a near-perfect turnout for its parliamentary "election" in which single candidates — approved by the political elite — stood uncontested in 687 constituencies across the country.

"According to the election returns available, 99.97 percent of all the voters registered ... took part in the election," the North's official KCNA news agency said.

Of the votes cast on Sunday, "100 percent" were for the unopposed candidates, a fact KCNA said demonstrated "the absolute support and trust of all voters" for the government.

The wholly stage-managed election for the North's rubber-stamp Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) included a win for paramount leader Kim Jong Un, who notably managed a perfect turnout in his own constituency.

The parliamentary poll is held every five years and turnout this time was actually slightly down on 2009, when 99.98 percent cast their ballots.

Each constituency had only one state-sanctioned candidate and voters were only allowed to mark "yes" on a ballot sheet in a closely monitored polling booth.

Many top Korean officials are members of the parliament, and the election is an opportunity to see if any established names are absent.

An initial count by South Korea's Yonhap news agency suggested that more than half of the assembly will comprise first-time deputies, but analysts said there were no great surprises among the changes.

Kim Jong Un's powerful aunt, Kim Kyong Hui, was on the list of elected candidates published by KCNA on Tuesday, suggesting she had survived the purge and shock execution in December of her husband, Jang Song Thaek.

The purge extended to Jang's family members and close associates, some of whom were absent from the new parliamentary roll call.

But the names of most top-level officials were listed, suggesting that "the number of Jang's associates in the upper leadership may not have been as large as previously thought," said Cheong Seong-chang, an analyst at the Sejong Institute in Seoul.

Other high-profile names included Vice Marshall Choe Ryong Hae, the vice chairman of the party's central military commission.

Seen as the number two in the leadership after Kim Jong Un, Choe had disappeared from public view for several weeks in February, leading to speculation that he may have been purged as well.

The current prime minister Pak Pong Ju, spy chief Kim Won Hong, national police chief Choe Pu Il and armed forces minister Jang Jong Nam were also listed.

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