North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s name was not on the list of 687 candidates elected to the regime’s Parliament in Sunday’s election, the state media announced on Tuesday, although his sister was voted into the rubber-stamp Parliament.

North Korea’s parliamentary election is used by Pyongyang to legitimise its rule, but is condemned internationally as a meaningless exercise. Each voting slip has only one state-approved candidate on it.

No reason was given for Kim’s absence from the ballot, five years after he was elected in the previous vote as head of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

Kim’s name was not mentioned when the Korean Central Broadcasting Station, a state radio network, announced names of all 687 deputies elected to the 14th Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) in the nationwide polls, Yonhap news agency reported.

It would be the first time in the North Korean history that the highest leader has not held a seat in the SPA. Both of Kim’s predecessors, his grandfather Kim Il-sung and his father Kim Jong-il, concurrently held parliamentary seats.

Yonhap said Kim’s absence from the list meant he didn’t run. The state media did not mention Kim’s candidate registration before or after the elections.

It was unclear why Kim decided not to run and what the decision meant for the country. But the decision doesn’t appear to suggest that his hold on power was slipping, according to experts.

They said the decision could be part of Kim’s efforts to project himself as a leader of a normal state where the executive and legislative branches are separate.

Kim was last elected to the Assembly in March 2014 when the first parliamentary elections were held since he came to power. He ran for a seat in the Mount Paektu Constituency No. 111, a mountain known to be the sacred birthplace of his late father.

Kim’s younger sister, Yo-jong was among the newly elected, according to Pyongyang’s state media. Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho and Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui, who led nuclear talks with the US, appeared to be elected as deputies for the first time.

Some of those handling inter-Korean affairs made it to the Assembly as well. The list included Ri Son-gwon, Chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, and Ri Jong-hyok, Vice Chairman of the Korean Asia-Pacific Peace Committee.

Kim Yong-chol, Vice Chairman of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party Central Committee, who served as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s counterpart in meetings with Washington; Ri Su-yong, in charge of international affairs at the Workers’ Party of Korea; and North Korea’s Ambassador to the UN Kim Song also appeared to have been elected as deputies.

The Korean Central News Agency reported that 99.99 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots in the election and all new deputies were elected with 100 per cent of the vote.

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