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North Koreans vote in predetermined elections

North Koreans have gone to the polls to approve a new national parliament. But the results are a foregone conclusion.

North Koreans voted on Sunday in an election to approve the Supreme People's Assembly - a "parliament" that meets only once or twice a year to approve budgets made by the ruling communist Workers' Party.

The vote was not democratic, with only one approved candidate standing for each of the 687 districts. Voters were given the choice only of a "yes" or "no" for the single candidate on their ballot.

Virtually all have chosen "yes" in previous such votes.

The vote is considered obligatory. Outside observers say this makes elections in the country an opportunity for the government to hold a national census.

State-run media vigorously promoted the elections over the past weeks. A number of poems were published to celebrate the act of casting a ballot, with titles such as "The Billows of Emotion and Happiness" and "We Go to the Polling Station."

The elections were the first since March 2009, and also the first under leader Kim Jong Un, who took over as head of state in December 2011 upon the death of his father, Kim Jong-Il.

The younger Kim also stood in this year's elections as a candidate for the constituency of Mount Paektu, a mountain traditionally venerated by Koreans and officially recognized as the birthplace of Kim Jong Il - though outside historians agree he was born in the former Soviet Union.

Election results are normally announced the next day, and the parliament is expected to convene sometime next month.

When the Assembly is not in session, the smaller and more powerful Presidium does its work.

tj/kms (AP, AFP)