North Korea has yet to make its first announcement of a winner in its 2018 presidential election, with a ruling by the United Nations Security Council that its leader Kim Jong-un had been excluded from the run-off vote.
But it is unlikely to be a surprise to most North Koreans, who know the country’s president, Kim Jong Un, and the leadership he commands has been in place since his father, Kim Il Sung, died in December 2011.
The United Nations has repeatedly accused the North of committing war crimes in its missile and nuclear tests, but it has also repeatedly condemned its nuclear programme.
“I think it will be very hard for North Korea to win,” said the North’s foreign ministry spokesman, Hong Yong-pyo, during a visit to Japan last week.
“It will be a very tough year, but I hope that the country will show a lot of courage and resolve.”
The country has seen a succession of changes since its founder Kim Il-sung died in February 2011, when his eldest son, Kim Young-il, was appointed leader.
The country then saw two new leaders, Kim Yong-chol, who was widely regarded as a reformer and who succeeded his father as president in October 2012, and Kim Jong Il, who died in November last year.
But while Kim Jong Nam and Kim Yong Chol were regarded as reformers, Kim Jung-un, who took over as North Korea’s president in January 2017, was viewed as a hardline conservative and leader who was a harsh critic of Kim Il Jung.
While the country may have seen two presidents in 2017, the new leader was seen as the more pragmatic and experienced of the two, and in a new book Kim Jong Hyeon has called him the “ideal successor”.
But North Korea is not without its flaws.
Kim Jong Min, the countrys new leader, has been accused of human rights abuses, including the torture of detained journalists, and of violating international sanctions, and is seen as more authoritarian and repressive than his predecessor.
The new leader also inherited an economy that was seen by many as failing to meet the needs of the population, and his government has faced growing economic pressure from sanctions.
Kim Jong Un has vowed to continue the Kim dynasty’s rule for decades to come, with Kim Jong Hyun, the younger of the new leaders’ sons, being installed as leader in September.
While North Korea will face tough competition in the 2020 presidential elections, it will also face the threat of further sanctions from the United States and South Korea.
While South Korea has imposed a number of sanctions on the country in response to the latest nuclear test, North Korea continues to make significant investments in its nuclear and missile programmes.
While a decision on the election is expected by the end of this year, Kim has yet in recent weeks spoken publicly about the prospects of a second presidential run-up.
However, North Korean officials have repeatedly said they would support any candidate who comes first.
“This election is a big opportunity to show the people of the country the great achievements of the leadership of Kim Jong Nam and Kim Il Jong, the great strength of our people,” Hong told reporters.
“I believe it will have the necessary effect to win in 2020.”
Al Jazeera’s Ben Emmerson, reporting from Beijing, said that it was a rare day for North Korean leader Kim Yong Nam to make any public appearance since he was arrested in February for treason.
“He has been on the run, he is being monitored by South Korean security services, and he is on the verge of being removed from the presidency,” he said.
“But the only thing that seems to be stopping him from running is the fear of losing his job.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report