Brief history of the National Assembly
Since the 18th century, the Lao people have been struggling for their independence. The national democratic revolution against the imperialist invaders lasted for 30 years. In 1975, the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party set up strategies to seize power peacefully, but be able to seize the power throughout the country; move toward the great victory by eliminating the yoke of colonialism and feudalism. The Lao people of all ethnic groups under the bright leadership of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party eventually achieved the complete liberation of the country on 2 December 1975 with the foundation of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) and the establishment of the Supreme People’s Assembly by the nationwide People’s Representatives Congress.
The Supreme People's Assembly I
The Supreme People’s Assembly I
The Supreme People’s Assembly, the first Legislature, had 45 members, including four females. The Standing Committee consisted Prince Souphanouvong, who was President of the Supreme People’s Assembly, Mr. Sisomphone Lovanxay, Mr. Sithon Kommadam and Mr. Faydang Lobliayao, who were Vice-Presidents and Mr. Khamsouk Keola who was Vice-President and Secretary General. The first Legislature had three committees: the Constitution Drafting Committee, the Presidential Decrees and Election Laws Drafting Committee and the Planning and State Budget Committee. The role of the first Legislature was to build solidarity among all ethnic groups in the country in order to meet two objectives: to safeguard and build the nation. The first Legislature achieved its political role in mobilizing and in building solidarity among the people of all ethnic groups as well as safeguarding the benefits of the struggle for independence, by restoring the economy and the socio-cultural environment and in improving the postwar living conditions of all ethnic groups.
In addition, the People’s Supreme Assembly, first Legislature, adopted the first five-year socio-economic development plan (1980-1985) and a number of new laws such as the Law on the Council of Ministers, the Law on Local Administration Authority and the Law on Foreign Investment. The Assembly also deliberated other important issues for the nation.
The Supreme People's Assembly II
The Supreme People’s Assembly II
On 26 March 1989 Lao people elected the People’s Supreme Assembly, second Legislature, comprising of 75 members, including five females. Mr. Nouhak Phoumsavanh became the President of the second Legislature, assisted by five permanent members in the Standing Committee and five committees: the Constitution and Law Decrees Drafting Committee, the Economics, Planning and Finance Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Social and Cultural Affairs Committee and the Cabinet of the Supreme People’s Assembly. People’s Assemblies existed at provincial and district levels.
The most important achievement of the People’s Supreme Assembly’s Second Legislature was to fulfill its political role in drafting the first Constitution of the Lao PDR, which was adopted on 14 August 1991, by the sixth ordinary session of the People’s Supreme Assembly’s Second Legislature. The second Legislature adopted 22 new and actively implemented a foreign relations policy that aimed to enhance cooperation with parliamentary organizations at international and regional level with friendly countries..
The Lao PDR was admitted as a full member of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) during its 83rd meeting in Cyprus; was an observer of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Organization (AIPO) and formed the Laos-Japan Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Association.
The Supreme People's Assembly III
The Supreme People’s Assembly III
On 20 December 1992, members of the third Legislature were elected and the Supreme People’s Assembly changed its name to the National Assembly. The National Assembly, as a legislative organ, implements its rights and duties defined in the Constitution and the Laws on the National Assembly. The third Legislature did not have regional assemblies and worked only at national level.
The National Assembly’s Third Legislature was comprised of 85 Members, of whom eight were women. The third Legislature had Mr. Samane Vignaket as President, two Vice-President, an seven-member Standing Committee and six Committees: the Secretariat, the Committee on Legal Affairs, the Committee on Economics, Planning and Finance, the Committee on Social and Cultural Affairs, the Committee on Ethnic Affairs and the Committee on Foreign Relations. Moreover, the National Assembly Office assisted the committees in their work.
During its term, the National Assembly’s Third Legislature organized nine ordinary and extraordinary sessions. The major issues deliberated by the National Assembly were the definition and implementation of the public administration reform at central level; the adoption of the socio-economic development; the establishment of groups of National Assembly members and National Assembly offices in every constituency and the expansion of foreign relations policy.
During its twenty years of existence, improvements and progress were made and the National Assembly through its three legislatures had successfully performed its rights and duties. The performance of each National Assembly’s legislature had been an important factor in the development of the nation, especially during the renovation process of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party and each legislature has gradually contributed to the construction and strengthening of the People’s Republic Government.
The National Assembly IV
The Supreme People’s Assembly IV
An important landmark in the Lao history, which shows the development of the People’s Republic Government, was the election of the National Assembly’s Fourth Legislature on 21 December 1997. The National Assembly’s Fourth Legislature was comprised of 99 members, 21 of whom are women. Mr. Samane Vignaket had been reelected President and three Vice-Presidents also elected, including a woman.
The National Assembly’s Fourth legislature had a seven-member Standing Committee and six Committees such as the Committee on Legal Affairs; the Committee on Economics and Finance, the Committee on Social and Cultural Affairs, the Committee on Ethnic Affairs, the Committee on National Defense and Security and the Committee on Foreign Affairs. In addition, the National Assembly Office assists the Standing Committee and other Committees.
The National Assembly V
The Supreme People’s Assembly V
Elected on 24 February 2002. The fifth Legislature was composed of 109 members, including 25 women (23%), elected after a pre-selection process, by direct and universal suffrage. Each of the 16 provinces throughout the country formed a constituency, along with one constituency for the Xaysomboun Special Zone and another constituency for Vientiane Municipality (18 constituencies in all). Lao citizens of 18 years of age and over were eligible to vote as a rule. There was one member for every 50.000 people with a minimum of three members per province. Mr. Samane Vignket had been reelected President and three Vice-Presidents also elected, including a woman. The fifth legislature amended the Constitution of the Lao PDR.
The National Assembly VI
The National Assembly VI
The National Assembly (sixth Legislature) was elected on 30 April 2006 and comprised of 115 members, including 86 males and 29 females (25,2%). Mr. Thongsing Thamavong was elected as the President and two Vice Presidents were elected, including a woman.
The National Assembly Standing Committee set up, comprising of nine members, including National Assembly President and two Vice Presidents. There are six National Assembly Committees and a National Assembly Office: the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Laws Committee, the Economics Finance and Planning Committee, the Defence and Security Committee, the Cultural and Social Committee, the Ethnic Affairs Committee and National Assembly Office. There are 17 constituencies in 17 provinces and a constituency in Vientiane Capital.
The National Assembly VII
The National Assembly VII
The National Assembly – seventh Legislature was elected on 30 April 2011, composing of 132 members, including 33 females (25%) Mrs. Pany Yathotou was elected as the President and two Vice-Presidents were elected. The National Assembly Standing Committee consisted 10 members. The 10th ordinary National Assembly session of the seventh Legislature passed the second amendment of the Constitution to meet the socio-economic development and the needs of Lao people of all ethnic groups.
It can be said that the structure of the National Assembly (fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh Legislature) comprised of six committees such as the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Laws Committee, the Economics Finance and Planning Committee, the Defence and Security Committee, the Cultural and Social Committee and the Ethnic Affairs Committee. In addition, there were the National Assembly Office and the National Assembly members’ groups in 18 constituencies.
The National Assembly VIII
The National Assembly VIII
Elected on 20 April 2016, the National Assembly – eighth Legislature comprised of 149 members, including 41 females (27,52%). Mrs. Pany Yathotou was reelected as the President and four Vice-Presidents were elected, including a woman. The National Assembly Standing Committee consisted 14 members and there were eight committees such as the Laws Committee, the Justice Committee, the Economics, Technology and Environment Committee, the Planning, Finance and Audit Committee, the Cultural and Social Committee, the Ethnic Affairs Committee, the Defence and Security Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee. In addition, there were the Secretariat and the National Assembly members’ groups in 18 constituencies. According to the National Assembly Standing Committee permission, the three bodies were set up as follows: the Lao National Assembly Women’s Caucus, the Constituencies Liaison Board and the Legislation Research Institute. The National Assembly Office changed its name to the Secretariat in the eighth Legislature.
The National Assembly IX
The nationwide elections for the National Assembly-ninth Legislature was held on 21 February 2021. Some 4.28 million Lao people were eligible to vote to elect 164 National Assembly members out of 224 candidates. In the inaugural session, Dr. Xaysomphone Phomvihane was elected as the President and five Vice Presidents were elected in this event. The National Assembly Standing Committee comprises of 15 members. There are nine committees such as the Laws Committee, the Justice Committee, the Economics, Technology and Environment Committee, the Planning, Finance and Audit Committee, the Cultural and Social Committee, the Ethnic Affairs Committee, the Defence and Security Committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Committee on Constituencies Affairs. In addition, there were the Secretariat and the National Assembly members’ groups in 18 constituencies. According to the National Assembly Standing Committee permission, the Legislation Research Institute was set up.
The National Assembly (ninth Legislature) is the representative of the rights, powers and interests of the multi-ethnic people. The National Assembly is also the legislative branch that has the right to make decisions on fundamental issues of the country, to oversee the activities of the executive organs, the people’s courts and the office of the public prosecutor and implement the legislative right.
It should be emphasized that the number of members of the National Assembly has been constantly increasing since the first Legislature of the People’s Supreme Assembly. The first legislature consisted of 45 members, including four females. The ninth Legislature consists of 164 members, including 36 females (21.95%). Currently the National Assembly’ Ninth Legislature is fulfilling and enlarging its role and functions in compliance with the Law on National Assembly, which was promulgated in 2006 and amended in 2015.
The achievements and activities are valuable lessons for the new legislature of the National Assembly as well for future legislatures. Every legislature of the National Assembly has adopted laws and regulations adapted to the pace of development of the country, thereby building the confidence of state officials and the Lao people from all social groups. This has brought the Lao people happiness and strengthened their respect for the Party and the State that have introduced a system where laws guarantee people’s rights and obligations in society. To date, 156 laws were adopted and many promulgated laws were amended to fit the reality and the socio-economic development level.