Communists win expected landslide in Laos elections

Laos' ruling communist party won its expected landslide in last month's parliamentary elections, which ushered two independents among 71 newcomers into the National Assembly, according to official results reported Wednesday.

The widely anticipated results, published in the Vientiane Times, showed that 113 of the 115 seats in the National Assembly went to candidates of the ruling Lao People's Revolutionary Party.

Lao Foreign Ministry Spokesman Yong Chanthalansy said that voter turnout from the April 30 polls was not yet available.

The leadership of the single-party Southeast Asian state, one of five remaining communist countries in the world, has long been dominated by aging members of the party who participated in the civil war against a U.S.-backed regime that ended with a communist victory in 1975.

This election marked an effort to bring fresh faces into the party, with incumbents making up only about a quarter of the candidates.

Among the fresh faces are more women, with 29 female lawmakers as opposed to 25 in the outgoing National Assembly, the newspaper reported.

The government of Laos, a poor, Southeast Asian country of about 6.2 million people, has partially liberalized the economy to encourage development, but has kept a tight grip on political power. Its leaders are among the most secretive in Asia, tolerating no opposition and maintaining strict control over the media.

Laos allowed independent candidates to run for the first time in 2002. At that time, only one ran in the race. This time around, three independents were allowed.

The two independents elected to the incoming lower house are businessmen, Somphiane Xayadeth and Oun-Heuan Phothilath, the foreign ministry spokesman said.

The country's last elections were in February 2002, and the assembly would normally serve a five-year term but was restricted to four years this time because the session before ran an extra year, reports the AP.


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