Elections in Laos are neither free nor fair. When the Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LPRP) came to power in 1975, it abolished all political parties and installed a single-party system known as â€œdemocratic centralism.â€ Elections for the National Assembly are held every five years. However, in order to ensure the party's influence, candidates have to be approved by the LPRP. The April 2011 elections for the National Assembly saw 190 candidates, including five independents, contest for 132 seats. State media put the voter turnout at 99.6% and highlighted votersâ€™ great enthusiasm in exercising their political rights to ensure qualified candidates win the seats. However, the role of the National Assembly in elections is minimal, not least because the
real policy makers had been elected by 576 delegates at the Party Congress one month earlier. This electoral system is based on the 1991 Constitution that instates the LPRP as the sole legitimate political party and provides for the LPRP to take the leading role at all levels of government. In line with the Laotian political system, the level of political participation and pluralism is low. There are no political civic organisations. Freedom of assembly is constitutionally provided for, but does not exist in practice. Every formal gathering requires permission, which is hardly ever granted.