(SEOUL, KOR) - North Koreans began casting their votes on Sunday to elect representatives for local assemblies, state media said, with the polls expected to unanimously favour the ruling communist party.
The vote for deputies to assemblies at provincial, city and county levels began at 9:00am (0000 GMT) across the country, with participants in a festive mood, Korean Central News Agency said.
"Polling stations are crowded with well-dressed voters eagerly waiting for their turns... with many dancing to music of drums and gongs," KCNA said.
It added that all participants would cast "yes" votes in support of the ruling communist party.
It said North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il visited a polling station in the capital Pyongyang to cast his vote along with other senior officials including his youngest son and heir apparent, Jong-Un.
Usually, 99 percent of voters take part in the North's elections and 99 percent of them cast "yes" votes for uncontested candidates.
About 85 percent of eligible voters had cast their ballots as of noon, KCNA said.
During their four-year term, the local assemblies convene once or twice a year to approve budgets and endorse local leaders appointed by the communist party.
Analysts have said this year's elections were aimed at revamping official bodies before a major political event next year to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of founding president Kim Il-Sung.
The impoverished state has set 2012 as a deadline for attaining the status of "a strong and prosperous nation" amid efforts by the regime to transfer power from leader Kim to his son Jong-Un.
The 69-year-old leader, who took over from his father after the elder Kim's death in 1994, is speeding up the third-generation power transfer to his young son, known to be in his late 20s, after suffering a stroke in 2008.
KCNA reiterated the elections are held at "a very significant time" ahead of the 2012 deadline, urging the public to cast "100-percent consenting votes" for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The North held elections to its national rubber-stamp parliament in 2009.
Human rights groups and foreign governments say that North Korea has one of the world's most dismal human rights records. About 200,000 political prisoners are held in "horrific" conditions, according to Amnesty International.