Prime Minister of Laos
The prime minister of Laos, formerly the chairman of the Council of Government of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, is the head of government of Laos. The highest position in the government, he or she directs the country's executive branch. The prime minister is accountable to the president, the National Assembly and the country's only legal party: the Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LPRP). The current prime minister is Phankham Viphavanh, who was elected in 2021.
|Prime Minister of the Lao People's Democratic Republic
ນາຍົກລັດຖະມົນຕີ ແຫ່ງ ສປປ ລາວ
Premier ministre de la République démocratique populaire lao
|Type||Head of government|
|Residence||Building of the Office of the Prime Minister|
|Term length||Maximum of two five-year terms|
|Constituting instrument||Constitution of Laos|
Law on Government
|Inaugural holder||Kaysone Phomvihane|
|Formation||2 December 1975|
|Deputy||Deputy Prime Minister|
The Kingdom of Luang Phrabang was the first Laotian state to establish the office of prime minister. The Constitution of the Kingdom of Laos, ratified in 1947, established the post of Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Laos. The kingdom was abolished on 2 December 1975, when the National Congress of People's Representatives established the Lao People's Democratic Republic. The congress established the office of prime minister, forming the First Government on that day. The Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) approved the Law on the Council of Government, regulating the government's decision-making process, in 1982. The Constitution was approved on 14 August 1991, and the Prime Minister was made subordinate to the President.
Although the Constitution and the Law on Government do not stipulate any qualifications needed to be elected prime minister except for a minimum age of twenty, the law implies that the prime minister must be a member of the LPRP. Every prime minister since the communist seizure of power on 2 December 1975 has been a member of the LPRP Central Committee and the party's Politburo. Of the seven prime ministers since 1975, two served concurrently as LPRP General Secretary; since 1998, however, the general secretary normally serves concurrently as the president.
The prime minister is nominated by the president and elected for a five-year term by the National Assembly. The nominee must receive a majority vote to be elected, and the officeholder can serve a maximum of two terms. The prime minister is responsible for controlling the government's apparatus and composition. He or she has the right to propose the appointment, reassignment, and removal of minister-level officials and provincial governors to the National Assembly, and is empowered to control and monitor central, provincial and municipal state bodies.
Laos' first head of government was Phetsarath Ratanavongsa, who was appointed Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Luang Phrabang on 15 August 1941. A French–Lao agreement established the Kingdom of Laos – the first unified, modern Laotian state – on 27 August 1946. A Constituent Assembly was formed to enact a new constitution. The Constitution of the Kingdom of Laos was enacted on 28 April 1947 by the Constituent Assembly, and was promulgated by royal decree on 11 May 1947. Under the new constitution, Laos was defined as "a unitary, indivisible and democratic kingdom"; Prince Souvannarat was the first Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Laos. Seven prime ministers served the Kingdom of Laos between 15 March 1947 and its 2 December 1975 dissolution.
Pre-constitutional period (1975–91)Edit
The Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) and the office of Prime Minister were established on 2 December 1975 by a decision of the National Congress of People's Representatives (NCPR). All institutions of the Kingdom of Laos were replaced with institutions strongly influenced by those in other socialist states, especially Vietnam. The NCP ordered the Supreme People's Assembly to "propel, assist and control all the activities of the government, to prepare a draft Constitution as well as propose laws which are indispensable and to strengthen the base of the new code of the law of the People's Democratic regime". The NCPR also gave the Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LPRP) a monopoly on state power. The Prime Minister, the government and the SPA (the new legislature) would implement party decisions. Lao People's Revolutionary Party General Secretary Kaysone Phomvihane said in 1977, "Party committees at all levels must lead [in fulfilling] the revolutionary task in all domains, but the essential is to direct the power of the state. They must make [the state] secure and powerful, capable of applying the line and policies of the Party." According to scholar Chou Norindr, the political system made the government and legislature subordinate to the party. This contrasts with liberal democratic societies, in which several parties compete for power and all are subject to state laws.
The governmental structure established on 2 December 1975 was named the Council of Government, like its Vietnamese counterpart. The council was responsible for the political, economic, cultural and social affairs of the state, and its security, defence and foreign relations. It was also responsible for increasing the state's economic performance, developing collective power and establishing a socialist mode of production. The Council of Government was the supreme power in administration and economic affairs.
The government had a hierarchy since its inception. Kaysone Phomvihane, the first Prime Minister of the Lao PDR, also served as LPRP General Secretary and a member of the Politburo and Secretariat. His four deputy prime ministers (Nouhak Phoumsavanh, Phoumi Vongvichit, Khamtai Siphandon and Phoune Sipraseuth) served concurrently in the LPRP Politburo, the highest decision-making body between Central Committee meetings. Below them were members of the LPRP Central Committee and other party members. The Presidency of the Council of Government, the highest governmental body, was composed of the Prime Minister, his deputies, and Saly Vongkhamsao, Sisavath Keobounphanh, Chanmy Douangboudy, Maychantane Sengmany and Thongsavat Khaykhamphitoune. Members of the presidency controlled the state's legislative, executive and judicial powers. The First Government's deputy prime ministers had wide-ranging responsibilities; they led their respective ministries and oversaw other ministries on behalf of the Prime Minister. With the Prime Minister, The First Government and prime minister reported their activities to the SPA (consisting mainly of LPRP members), which rarely held the government accountable.
The assembly passed the Law on the Council of Government, which stated that the Council of Government has the "full power to settle all matters of state management which do not fall under the duties and rights of the Supreme People's Assembly and the SPA Standing Committee", in November 1982. The law changed the Prime Minister's title to Chairman of the Council of Government, and the deputy prime ministers' to Deputy Chairmen of the Council of Government. It intended to strengthen the body's collegiality by emphasising collective leadership, a communist leadership principle which seeks to minimise arbitrary decision-making; "representatives of trade unions, youth and women may be invited" to the meetings of the Council of Government "for consultation on problems involving the masses of all strata to which each organisation is responsible". Ministers could also attend council meetings.
The Council of Government organised quarterly meetings of all ministers; between sessions of the Council of Government, the Standing Committee of the Council of Government met weekly. It was composed of the chairman, the first deputy chairman, deputy chairs, ministers and the head of the Office of Council of Government. The first deputy chairman acted for the chairman in his absence. The deputy chairmen, as before, supervised and coordinated the activities of ministries and governmental committees. Decrees, decisions and significant issues decided by the Council of Government (or its standing committee) had to be signed by the chairman to become effective; resolutions, decisions and instructions issued on less-critical matters could be signed bu the chairman or first vice-chairman. One section of the law was devoted to the Office of the Council of Government, which was responsible for preparing the council's work, organising its meetings and implementing its decisions. The head of the Office of the Council of Government reported to the chairman and first deputy chairman, working on behalf of the council with the SPA and other organisations.
The absence of a constitution influenced Laos' institutions. Souphanouvong, the Chairman of the SPA Standing Committee, was elected Chairman of the SPA Constitutional Drafting Commission. Between 1975 and 1984, however, none of its work was made public. In 1984, the SPA announced the creation of two subcommittees of the Constitutional Drafting Commission. The lack of an institutionalised structure led the party to bypass state structures in decision-making; the LPRP Secretariat, for example, bypassed the SPA. It reshuffled the First Government in January 1982, in violation of the law. No explanation has been given for why it took so long to write a constitution; Vietnam approved a constitution four years after reunification, and the People's Republic of Kampuchea took two. Laos, influenced by reforms in Vietnam and the rest of the socialist world by the mid-1980s, called for SPA elections in 1988. At the assembly's first plenary session, party leaders reported that the draft constitution was nearly finished. On 14 August 1991, the SPA adopted the first constitution of the Lao People's Democratic Republic.
Constitutional system (1991–present)Edit
The new constitution changed the Chairman of the Council of Government back to Prime Minister. It affirmed the LPRP's role, defining it as the "leading nucleus" of the state. The government's executive branch was strengthened. The Prime Minister's power was reduced, and the president's was increased; the Prime Minister had appointed provincial governors, but the president did under the new constitution. The President now had the right to appoint and dismiss the Prime Minister and ministers in accordance with the National Assembly. According to scholar Stephen T. Johnson, the new presidency was comparable to the President of France during the Fifth Republic. The prime minister was responsible for guiding the work of government ministries, committees, provincial governors and mayors.
The constitution was amended in 2013 and 2015. Amendments in 2013 were needed to "reflect the political and economic reality of contemporary Laos", and in 2015 it was amended to "respond to the Party's renovation policies and the country's development vision until 2030". The 2015 amendments gave the National Assembly the power to appoint and dismiss the prime minister and the government, removing from the president the power to appoint the prime minister.
Qualifications and selectionEdit
The constitution stipulates in Article 23 that all "Lao citizens aged eighteen years and above have the right to vote and those aged twenty years and above have the right to be elected, except insane persons, persons with mental disorders and persons whose rights to vote and to be elected have been revoked by a court." The Law on the Government is silent on qualifications to be elected prime minister. According to Article 3, "The government operates on a principle of democratic centralism based on the Constitution and laws, having the Lao People's Revolutionary Party as the axle and having the Lao Front for National Construction, the mass organisations and the social organisations as the power [and] uses educational, economic, and administrative methods to manage the State and to manage the society and economy"; the prime minister and the government are selected on the premise that they implement party decisions.
Since the office was established, the prime minister has been a leading party official. From 1975 to 1991, when it was the most powerful state office, the LPRP General Secretary served concurrently as prime minister. No LPRP General Secretary has concurrently served as prime minister since 1998, opting instead to hold the presidency. However, every prime minister since 1975 has been a member of the LPRP Central Committee and its Politburo. A Politburo member does not require a fixed rank to be elected prime minister; Sisavat Keobounphan was ranked eighth, Bounnhang Vorachith fourth, Thongsing Thammavong third and Thongloun Sisoulith second in its hierarchy.
Duties and rightsEdit
The prime minister leads the government's executive branch. The government is composed of the prime minister, the deputy prime ministers, ministers and chairmen of ministries. The government's term of office is identical to that of the National Assembly: a maximum of five years. No government official can hold an office for more than two consecutive terms, and an individual can serve as prime minister for ten years. The sitting government leaves office when the successor government has received National Assembly approval. The prime minister can leave office during his or her term by resigning. The National Assembly confirms the prime minister's resignation if he is unable perform his duties.
The constitution establishes the government's duties and responsibilities. The Law on Government clarifies the constitution, extending the government's rights. Both documents state that the government is responsible for implementing the constitution. The government ensures the implementation of laws and resolutions enacted by the National Assembly, and decrees and presidential edicts approved by the Standing Committee of the National Assembly. The government is empowered to submit draft laws to the assembly, suggest draft presidential edicts to the assembly's standing committee and the president, and submit draft presidential decrees.
The government has the right to issue decrees and resolutions on economic and social management, the administrative structure of the state, and the management of science and technology. The same rights apply to national resources, the environment, defence, security and foreign affairs. The government can establish socioeconomic plans and a state budget, submitting them to the National Assembly for consideration. The government has the right to examine and question determinations, amendments and annulments passed by the National Assembly, and the assembly's decisions on taxation; it can make recommendations to the National Assembly and its standing committee, and propose fees and service charges to the committee.
With National Assembly approval, the government can establish, consolidate, separate and liquidate ministries, ministerial bodies, provinces and cities. It can recommend changes to the boundaries of cities and provinces to the National Assembly. The government can recommend establishing, merging, separating or abolishing a sub-ministry, department or department-level body. At the proposal of a provincial governor or provincial-capital mayor, the government can establish or abolish districts, municipalities, and district and municipal boundaries with the approval of the relevant provincial People's Assembly. It can also establish or abolish special and specific economic zones.
The government is responsible for promoting, disseminating and implementing the constitution, instilling respect for it, and implementing approved laws and regulations. It is empowered to control and monitor organisations, local administrative bodies, and defence and security forces to safeguard the constitution, laws and regulations. The government is responsible for the equal protection of its citizens, and has the right to make, enter into, interpret and implement international treaties.
It is the government's duty to protect the rights of citizens, including those living abroad. It is constitutionally empowered to bestow and revoke citizenship. It can grant a foreigner the status of an honorary person, and can propose amnesty to the president.
As the head of government, the prime minister calls government meetings and presides over them. The Law on Government gives the prime minister the right to direct and control the government's activities and delegate work to ministries, ministry-level organisations, other organisations under government supervision, and local administration. The prime minister directs and monitors the implementation of resolutions, the five-year plan, the state budget, and regulations approved by the Standing Committee of the National Assembly.
He or she has the right to change the composition of the government, proposing the appointment, reassignment, or dismissal of a deputy prime minister, minister or head of a ministry-level department to the National Assembly. With National Assembly approval, the prime minister can also appoint, reassign or remove a deputy minister, deputy head of the ministry-level department, the head or deputy head of a bureau, assistant minister, assistant head of a ministry-level department, head of a department or head of a department-level organisation. At the provincial and local levels, the prime minister can propose the appointment or dismissal of provincial governors, deputy governors, mayors, deputy mayors or district governors to the provincial People's Assembly and its standing committee. In the armed forces, the prime minister can promote or demote colonels and propose to the president the promotion or demotion of generals. He or she can propose to the president the appointment or recall of Laotian ambassadors and plenipotentiaries.
With National Assembly approval, the prime minister can approve, annul, and withdraw from international treaties. The prime minister can propose to the National Assembly's Standing Committee the rectification of treaties, and can assign a minister and head of a ministry-level organisation to execute international treaties on behalf of the state.
He or she can issue decrees, orders and decisions on the implementation of policies, laws, regulations and state plans, and on the establishment and operation of ministries, ministry-level organisations, local administration and other government-level organisations. The head of government can temporarily prevent, terminate and annul decisions of a ministry, local administration and organisations under government supervision if they contradict laws and regulations, except for public prosecutor and People's Supreme Court decisions on legal proceedings. The Prime Minister may summarise and report on the government's operation annually to the president and the National Assembly.
|Term of office||President(s)|
|Took office||Left office||Time in office|
|8 December 1975||15 August 1991||15 years, 250 days||Souphanouvong|
|15 August 1991||16 February 1998||6 years, 193 days||Kaysone Phomvihane|
|16 February 1998||27 March 2001||3 years, 31 days||Khamtai Siphandon|
|27 March 2001||8 June 2006||5 years, 73 days|
|8 June 2006||23 December 2010||4 years, 198 days||Choummaly Sayasone|
|23 December 2010||20 April 2016||5 years, 119 days|
|20 April 2016||22 March 2021||4 years, 336 days||Bounnhang Vorachith|
|22 March 2021||Incumbent||19 days||Thongloun Sisoulith|
Living former prime ministersEdit
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Prime Ministers of Laos.|
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