Thu, Feb 19, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Kim Jong-il makes pitch before rubber-stamp election

AP , SEOUL

North Korean strongman Kim Jong-il is no ordinary politician. But he is acting like one, making promises and urging citizens to vote ahead of an election that was delayed amid his reputed health problems.

The reclusive leader, who rules his impoverished country with an iron fist, has appealed to citizens ahead of balloting next month for the Supreme People’s Assembly — North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament.

“I will live up to the expectations of the entire electorate by devoting my all to the prosperity of the country and happiness of the people,” Kim said in an “open letter” to voters carried yesterday by North Korea’s state news agency, KCNA.

Kim was out of sight for months last year after reportedly suffering a stroke, presenting the possibility of a power vacuum in the nation he has ruled since the 1994 death of his father, North Korean founder Kim Il-sung.

Last month, though, Kim emerged to meet a visiting Chinese Communist Party official.

Kim rules North Korea through his positions as supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea and chairman of the country’s National Defense Commission.

Citing rules that limit candidates to seeking election from one district only, Kim said in the letter that he was no exception and would be running in “Constituency No. 333.”

The vote, announced last month, is set for March 8.

Kim has a key advantage that leaders seeking re-election in most other countries do not have: He has no chance of losing.

North Korean parliamentary elections are a formality. Candidates are the ruling party and Kim. The legislature usually meets once or twice a year to rubber-stamp budgets or other decisions.

“All voters should take part in the election,” Kim said.

KCNA reported earlier this month that Kim had been nominated to run in the election “reflecting the ardent desire of all the voters and servicepersons” of the Korean People’s Army.

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