North Korea is holding its first local elections since Kim Jong-un came to power in 2011.
Sunday’s elections, which are held every four years, will select deputy positions at provincial, city and county assembly levels.
There is only one candidate on the ballot for each post, selected by the governing coalition and closely overseen by Kim’s Workers’ Party.
State news agency KCNA said that by 2pm local time, voter turnout stood at 91 percent.
It is expected that all the votes were in favour of the proposed candidates.
“There are two ballot boxes in voting venues; one is for ‘yes’ and the other is for ‘no’. Nobody dare to put his or her ballot into the ‘no’ box,” Dae Young-kim, a South Korean reporter who has extensively covered North Korea, told Al Jazeera.
“Therefore the election result is always the same as the plan of ruling Workers’ part.”
Dae said that although democratic in name, the elections are in practice a foregone conclusion.
“It is actually a show for the public,” he said. “The usual expected response to voting is 98 percent.”
Theoretically, voters can decide to vote against the proposed candidate; however that is considered as treason, so the expected positive response of the voting of those who enter it is unsurprisingly close to 100 percent.
“Refusing to vote, or voting for someone other than the one approved candidate, is taken as an active challenge to the Supreme Leader’s Guidance system since one is rejecting the choice they offered,” said Roger Cavazos, a retired US army lieutenant-colonel and expert on North Korea.
“At a minimum, one’s loyalty is immediately deemed insufficient leading to extra surveillance measures and penalties such as being fired from one’s job.
“Since one’s apartment and living space is tied to the workplace, losing one’s job almost always also entails losing one’s housing,” he told Al Jazeera.
Kim Jong-un took over power from his father Kim Jong-il who died on December 17, 2011.
The last local elections, which were held under Kim Jong-il’s rule in July 2011, had a 99.82 percent voter turnout rate and were seen as a path to facilitating support for the leadership succession process.
Sunday’s local elections will be seen as a further confirmation of that support.
Although lacking real public choice of candidates, the function of the polls is to give the opportunity to Kim Jong-un to shape the main parliament for the next four years.
It will also give an opportunity for local officials to monitor support for the government.
As the elections to the Supreme People’s Assembly, the national government, in March 2014 have not made any noticeable difference for citizens, it is not expected that the local elections will lead to any significant change.