National pride and patriotism were very much in evidence yesterday as people turned out in droves to elect their representatives to the National Assembly (NA) and Provincial/Capital Assemblies (PA).
Polling stations throughout Laos were packed with thousands of people from early Sunday morning as voters gathered to cast their ballots.
The high numbers were testimony to people's sense of political responsibility and their duty to exercise their right to vote and have a say in the country's future.
The next five years are especially important as Laos is determined to achieve its landmark goal to graduate from Least Developed Country status in 2020. Success in this mission will require the leadership of capable and knowledgeable NA and PA members.
Most polling stations opened at 7am and the majority of people arrived at 7:30am to cast their vote so that the process could finish as soon as possible.
By early afternoon, voting in many villages of Vientiane had been completed and the authorities had begun counting the votes.
President Choummaly Sayasone cast his vote in That Luang Tai village in Xaysettha district, where he addressed the media.
He said he was proud to participate in the election and to see so many people coming to exercise their democratic right to elect NA and PA members to represent them over the next five years.
“Voting is patriotic,” he said. “I call on all [eligible] Lao people to cast their ballots because as Lao citizens, excising our right to vote is an honour and we should take pride in it.”
Mr Choummaly said people of outstanding calibre were needed to represent the country's citizens so they could help push for the country's development and achieve the goals set under the Party's policies.
Meanwhile Party Secretary General and Vice President Mr Bounnhang Vorachit cast his vote in Nongbon village, Xaysettha district, along with a large number of other constituents.
A 74-year-old man living in the village told Vientiane Times “I want National Assembly and Provincial Assembly members to really work for the interests of local people. All voters want their representatives to take action to improve their livelihoods and to make sure better facilities such as roads are provided.”
Vien tiane Mayor Dr Sinlavong Khoutphaythoune told media that people were enthusiastic about voting and thought the process would be complete by 5pm in many villages.
“I think that in the capital we might know the unofficial results of the election by 7pm or 8pm,” he said.
Dr Sinlavong said one of the main challenges in this election was to get timely results from overseas. Some countries have only one or two voting places which means Lao citizens will have to travel a long distance.
In Laos voting took place in 18 constituencies with 6,715 polling stations. In Vientiane, a total of 535,233 people were eligible to vote at 701 polling stations.
Lao National Television covered the day's events live so that people could follow the voting as it unfolded.
Nationwide, about 3,988,000 people (of whom 2,006,000 are women) will select 149 National Assembly members from 211 candidates.
The Provincial Assemblies will be made up of 360 members to be elected from 508 candidates, while the Capital Assembly will consist of 18 members with two out of three candidates selected from each of the nine districts.
The authorities worked hard to ensure that voters placed their ballots in the right boxes, either for NA or PA candidates, to avoid invalid votes.
However, it w as observed that many people were unclear about the precise role of their representatives and the difference between the National Assembly and Provincial Assemblies. This was attributed to insufficient information being distributed to explain the function of the National Assembly and its members.
The election is a significant step in Laos' efforts to strengthen the people's democratic regime and ensure that the rights and benefits of all citizens are protected.
Elections are held every five years, with the previous election taking place in 2011.
Following the election, the National Assembly will hold its preliminary session in Vientiane next month. The session will see the newly-elected members approve the Assembly's new president, along with the president and vice president of Laos and government members.