In a likely prelude to leader Kim Jong Il's rise to the president's office, North Koreans elected him and hundreds of others to the country's Parliament Sunday.
Less than an hour after voting ended, the North's official Korean Central News Agency announced Kim's election to the Supreme People's Assembly, the country's rubber-stamp Legislature.Since the 1994 death of his father Kim Il Sung, the 56-year-old son has been running the reclusive communist country as the supreme military commander and head of the ruling Workers' Party. But he has yet to assume full formal power by taking over the title of president.
Kim Jong Il's assumption of the presidency will complete the first hereditary power succession in the communist country. His father ruled North Korea with an iron fist for nearly a half-century.
Details of the elections, including the exact number of deputies elected, were not announced. In the last elections in 1990, 678 legislators were chosen for five-year terms.
North Korea was to have held parliamentary elections in 1995, but they were canceled because of the death of Kim Il Sung. The country since has been running without a legislative body.
Only one candidate is allowed in each North Korean constituency, and voters are told to mark "X" on their ballot sheets only when they oppose their candidates, Seoul officials said.
Analysts said the Parliament, which also approves the government's budget, is expected to elect Kim Jong Il as president around Sept. 9, when the North celebrates the 50th anniversary of the founding of its government.
The Korean Central News Agency said all officers and men in constituency No. 666 voted for Kim Jong Il. South Korean officials said the constituency is believed to be a military district inside the capital, Pyongyang.
After casting their ballots, the voters reportedly shouted wishes for Kim's longevity, danced and sang songs.