Up to 2.5 million Lao voters went to the polls Sunday to elect new members of the National Assembly. There was a noted shift to younger, better-educated candidates to strengthen the 109-seat Assembly's handling of Laos' economic and social problems. Laos is a one-party state run by the communist Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LPRP). Soon after the polls closed in the afternoon, diplomats in Laos reported the vote had been incident-free.
Lao President Khamtay Siphandone, chairman of the ruling party, pledged continuity in the political and social development plan the 2001 party congress passed. The LPRP has been in power for 26 years and maintains a tight grip on power in the poor landlocked country of 5.4 million people. Mr. Khamtay said he believed the Lao people still had faith and trust in the party. The 166 candidates competing in the race included 34 women, but just 52 of the deputies from the previous National Assembly ran for re-election. Most of the new candidates are considerably younger than their predecessors and much better educated. The election results are not expected to be announced for several days due to the poor communications with many polling stations in remote locations.
Once the new assembly is convened in April or May, the president is expected to make changes to his Cabinet.
Laos is one of the world's poorest countries, with average per capita income of one dollar a day.