Torrential rains delay parliamentary election results in Laos

Recent torrential rains that washed out roads in some parts of Laos have have delayed the reporting of vote counts from Sunday's parliamentary elections, news reports said Wednesday.

About 175 candidates from the ruling Lao People's Revolutionary Party competed for 115 seats in the National Assembly. In an effort to bring new blood into the communist party, only about a quarter of the candidates were incumbents.

Officials from the remote provinces of Attapeu and Sekong in the south, and Oudomxay and Phongsaly in the north Tuesday informed the National Election Committee they were unable to complete their reports, according to the state-run Vientiane Times.

Rain washed out roads in these provinces, making it impossible to collect all the ballot boxes from polling stations across the highlands and jungles of the mountainous country.

Telephone network breakdowns after storms were also reported, and in some provinces officials said polling officers were having to walk for several days to reach districts and then carry the ballot boxes back to provincial centers.

The leadership of the single-party 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.

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.

Laos allowed independent candidates to run for the first time in 2002. The only independent in the race was Justice Minister Khamouane Boupha, who won.

Western observers expect the party to retain tight control over the country in the near future, noting that its 8th Party Congress ended in March with a commitment to maintain the status quo, reports the AP.

I.L.