The supreme political and policy-making authority of the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos is the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (Phak Pasaxon Pativat Lao) under the 1991 constitution, the work of which is reviewed at five-yearly Party Congresses which consider plans and strategies for national development and elect the President of the Party, the members of the Political Bureau (Politburo) and the members of the Central Committee. The current President of the Politburo and Central Committee, Mr Khamtay Siphandone, is also President of the Republic. A Standing Committee made up of members of the Politburo elected by the Central Committee oversees the functioning of the Party and follows up the implementation of Party resolutions; guidelines are issued by the Party Central Committee.
The unicameral National Assembly (Sapha Heng Xat) is currently made up of 166 members who are elected by universal adult suffrage to serve for a five-year term. The National Assembly elects the President of the People’s Democratic Republic, who is Head of State.
The executive is headed by a Prime Minister and a Council of Ministers, which are appointed for five-year terms by the President with the approval of the National Assembly.
The judiciary comprises the People’s Supreme Court and subsidiary courts; the President of the People’s Supreme Court is elected by the National Assembly on the recommendation of the National Assembly Standing Committee, while the Deputy President of the People’s Supreme Court and the judges are appointed by the National Assembly Standing Committee.
Six mass organisations play an important role in conveying the Party’s directives and policies and the government’s regulations and laws, and involving people in the political life of the nation. These are the Lao Buddhist Fellowship Organisation, the Lao Federation of Trade Unions (LFTU), the Lao Front for National Construction (LFNC), the Lao People’s Revolutionary Youth Union (LPRYU), the Lao Veterans’ Association (LVA) and the Lao Women’s Union (LWU).
The country is divided into 16 provinces (khoueng) – Attapeu, Bokeo, Borikhamxai, Champassak, Houaphanh, Khammouane, Luang Namtha, Luang Prabang, Oudomxai, Phongsali, Saravane, Savannakhet, Sayaburi, Sekong, Vientiane and Xieng Khouang – plus the special region (khetphiset) of Saysomboun which was formed in 1994 from parts of Borikhamxai, Vientiane and Xieng Khouang Provinces. The capital city of Vientiane is an independent prefecture (kamphaeng nakhon) which enjoys administrative parity with the provinces. The provinces are in turn sub-divided into districts (muang) and villages (ban).
There are between three and 13 districts (with an average of six) in each province, about 100 villages per district, and around 11,500 villages in the entire country. The average population size of a province is 230,000, of a district 36,000, and of a village approximately 300-400 (40-70 households).
The Lao People’s Revolutionary Party is represented at provincial level by the Provincial Governor, who is by default also the Chairperson of the Provincial People’s Committee. In the same way District Governors and Village Heads are also responsible for chairing District and Village People’s Committees.