Information on Political System
(kindly provided by the Embassy of Peoples Democratic Republic of Laos to the United States of America)
LAOS AT A GLANCETHE RIGHTS AND LIBERTIES OF THE PEOPLE
The general election held in October 1975 by the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party resulted in a number of people’s representatives. This led to the People’s Representatives Congress on 2 December of the same year. This congress adopted a resolution to change the name of the country to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.
The Lao People’s Revolutionary Party has played a pivotal role in Laos since 1950, under the name the Lao People’s Party (LPP), subsequently changed to the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP).
The structure of the Party consists of the following functional units:
- The Party Congress
This unit is nominally the supreme decision making body. Party members theoretically elect the Political Bureau, the Central Committee, the Secretariat of the Central Committee and the members of its various committees. However, the congress virtually meets to ratify decisions already taken by Party Leaders as to who should fill these positions. Normally, the Party Congress meets every five years.
- The Political Bureau (Politburo)
The Politburo is the real centre of power in the LPRP and is the most powerful Political unit in the country. Its main functions are to formulate the Party’s important policies in general and to control the operation of both the Party itself and the government.
The politburo administers the activities of the Party on behalf of the Central Committee. This means on behalf of the Party Congress as well.
- The Central Committee
The Central Committee acts as the core of the LPRP. Its members are all elected by the Party Congress for the period until the next Congress meeting.
This unit acts as the national administrative organization of the Party and is responsible for high level duties during the period while the Party is not in session. Any performance of the Committee is regarded as equal that of a Party Congress meeting.
- Party Committees directing local affairs
These units consist of committees at provincial, district, sub-district and village levels. Each is presided over by a provincial Party secretary (who wields considerable political power both within the province and at the national level).
In addition, one of the important units which work in close collaboration with the LPRP is the Lao Patriotic Front (Neo Lao Hak Saat). In 1979, the unit was changed to the Lao Front for National Construction LFNC (Neo Lao Sang Saat).
According to the statutes of the LFNC, membership is open to all patriotic organizations and individual citizens who accept the LFNC programme and constitution. Some of its members are the representatives of such groups as the Federation of Lao Trade Union, the union of Lao Women and the Lao Youth Union.
THE LAO PDR: AFTER THE PROMULGATION OF THE CONSTITUTION
On 15 August 1991, the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) promulgated a Constitution of the Lao PDR. This constitution consists of the 10 sections with 80 articles, which are summarized here for convenience.
SECTION 1 The Political System
SECTION 2 The Social and Economic System
SECTION 3 The Rights and Liberties of the People
SECTION 4 The National Assembly
SECTION 5 The President of the Country
SECTION 6 The Government
SECTION 7 The Local Administration
SECTION 8 The Judiciary
SECTION 9 Language, Alphabet, Symbol, National Anthem and the Capital City of the Nation
SECTION 10 The Final Provision
The Constitution states that sovereignty is the power that belongs to the people, is established by the people, and is authorized for the sake of the people. It defends political rights in elections, domestic policy regarding the creation of unity and equality among several ethnic groups of the country, policy and religions that legally allows the activities of all Buddhists as well as of other religions, a social protection policy, and policy concerning the defense of the nation. The Political System
Regarding Foreign Policy, the objectives focus on peace, independence, friendship and cooperation. It advocates the expansion of relations and cooperation with all countries under the principles of living together in peace, respecting their sovereign independence, non-interference in the internal affairs of others and the enjoyment of joint benefits.
The Social and Economic System
The section focuses on expansion into manufacturing and the transformation from an agronomy to an industrialized economy. More expansion of the basic economy is encouraged and the standard of life, both mentally and physically is to be enhanced.
The Rights and Liberties of the People
The section states the fundamental rights provided for all people. Each has an equal right in election, education, occupation, oration, writing, association and legal protest.
The National Assembly
The National Assembly as a legislative authority with the right to legislate on fundamental national problems as well as control the operation of the administration and the judiciary.
The President of the Country
This section specifies the President of the Country as Head of State elected by the National Assembly. The elected person is required to receive at least two-thirds of the votes of the members in a meeting of the National Assembly. The President possesses the right and duties as prescribed in the Constitution. The term of office of the President is 5 years.
This section states the rights and the duties of the Government. The Prime Minister is appointed by President and approved by the National Assembly with the absolute majority
together with his formed government.
The Local Administration
This section states the existence of the provinces, municipality, districts and villages.
The Judiciary consists of the People’s Courts and the Public Prosecutor. Each step of the operation of the judicial division is overseen by the National Assembly through the Assembly’s Committee. This committee elects and discharges the President of the people’s Supreme Court, the judges to the People’s Court and the President of the Public Prosecutors Office.
Language, Alphabet, Symbol, National Anthem, and the Capital City of the Nation
This section states general matters regarding the usage of the Lao language as the official language of the nation, the alphabet, the national symbol, the national anthem and that Vientiane is the capital city of Laos.
This section states that only the National Assembly of the Lao PDR has the right to change the Constitution.
According to this Constitution, the President, who is the Head of States, shall exercise administrative power through three channels:
- Legislative power: The President has the power to propose and approve laws.
- Administrative power: The President shall administer through the Prime Minister,
whom he appointed with the approval of the National Assembly. The administration of the Prime Minister is divided into two parts:
- The administrative authority of the State. This is the central administrative authority, namely, the "Government" and consists of the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Ministers, 15 ministers, 5 chairmen of committees that equivalent to ministers, minister to the Prime Minister’s Office, vice ministers, and vice chairmen that equivalent to vice ministers.
- Local administration. This refers to the provinces, municipalities, districts and villages. Provinces and municipality have governors, majors respectively, whereas districts have chiefs of districts and villages have village heads controlling their administrative level.
- Judicial power: The President administers judicial power through the courts, the
highest court being the People’s Supreme Court. The President and the presiding judges are elected by the Supreme People’s Assembly, or by its Standing Committee when the Assembly is not in session.
The courts are divided into two branches:
The People’s Court, comprising:
- The People’s Supreme Court.
- The Provincial People’s Court and the Vientiane Municipality People’s Court.
- The District People’s Court, and
- The Military Court.
- The Public Prosecutors Office, comprising:
- The Supreme Public Prosecutor.
- The Provincial Public Prosecutors Office and the Vientiane Municipality Public Prosecutor Office.
- The Public Prosecutors Office and
- The Military Prosecutors Office.
The constitution states in 18 articles the fundamental rights and duties of the people contingent upon their right to be citizens of the country and the equality of the sexes. In terms of society, it covers the right to education, religious beliefs, the entitlement to vote (from 18 years of age onwards), and to stand for election (from 21 years of age onwards). Both men and women are equal politically, economically, culturally and socially and they have equal opportunities for employment, in their way of life and in their right to employ the constitution as prescribed in the law.
In providing for the right to choose one’s own religion, the right and freedom to express one’s opinion, the right of association and to protest under the law, emphasis is obviously placed on the people’s liberty.
For more information on doing business in Laos, the Embassy of Peoples Democratic Republic of Laos to the United States of America has kindly provided extensive information in the following Guide to Doing Business in Laos. This can be viewed online or printed to assist you in your research and business efforts.
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Runckel & Associates