SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea said Wednesday it will elect members of its rubber-stamp parliament in March, which could provide a glimpse into any changes in the country's power elite after the execution of leader Kim Jong Un's uncle.
North Korea usually holds parliamentary elections every five years and the polls are largely a formality because candidates are believed to be hand-picked by the ruling Workers' Party. But since members of the Supreme People's Assembly typically hold other top official posts, the elections are closely watched by outside analyst for any hints for a shift in power in the tightly controlled country.
This year's election will be the first since Kim took power after the death of his father Kim Jong Il in late 2011.
It also will take place after Kim Jong Un had his uncle and top official Jang Song Thaek executed on treason charges last month. Observers said the execution was aimed at bolstering Kim's power but also showed his grip on power wasn't as tight as his father's.
Kim is expected to use the elections to replace aging legislators with younger ones loyal to him, said analyst Cheong Seong-jang at the private Sejong Institute in South Korea.
The official Korean Central News Agency said the elections will be held on March 9.
In the 2009 elections, 687 new assembly members were elected, with turnout of nearly 100 percent and all voters backing the sole candidate running in each constituency.
North Korea's parliament typically meets once or twice a year to approve personnel changes and the nation's budget and fiscal plans.