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Urgent reshuffle dominates parliament’s debate on law amendments

Empowering the standing committee of the National Assembly (NA) to approve urgent appointments, the reshuffling of high-level personnel in the government cabinet and the structure of other state bodies dominated Tuesday’s parliamentary debate on the amendment of relevant laws.

Lawmakers debated a draft law on the amendment of articles in the Law on National Assembly, Law on Provincial People’s Council, and Law on Election of Members of the National Assembly and Provincial People’s Council.
Under the current laws, the election and dismissal of the state president, vice president, prime minister and other leaders in key state departments is the absolute mandate of parliament alone.
Considering and approving the high-level organisational structure of state bodies and the government cabinet, as well as passing a vote of no confidence in individual cabinet members and removing them from their posts through a vote, also come under the power of the NA.
Similar mandates at the provincial level fall under the power of Provincial People’s Councils.
Amendments made in the draft law give the NA’s standing committee the power to consider and approve the appointment, transfer and dismissal of high-level personnel in state bodies including cabinet members in urgent cases. When urgent consideration and approval is made, the standing committee is required to present a report on the matter to the NA, which meets for debate sessions biannually.  
Addressing the Assembly’s ongoing ninth ordinary session, NA Vice President Mr Somphanh Phengkhammy, who presided over yesterday’s debate, said real circumstances underlined the need to give that power to the standing committee in urgent cases.
He noted that the six-month waiting time for a biannual session of the Assembly was too long and not suitable in urgent cases.
In fact, there have been many instances of high-level personnel in state bodies being transferred or replaced before an ordinary session of the NA took place.
The latest case in point was when the former Chairman of the NA’s Planning, Finance and Audit Committee, Dr Vilayvong Bouddakham, was recently appointed as the Governor of Champassak province, replacing Dr Bounthong Divixay who retired.
Many lawmakers supported the proposal to give such power to the standing committee.
However, elections and dismissal with regard to the top four posts state president, vice president, president of the NA and Prime Minister will remain under the absolute power of the NA, according to the draft law.
But NA member for Champassak province Mr Somchay Sihachak argued that the President of the People’s Supreme Court and Supreme Prosecutor should also only be elected or replaced solely by the NA, the same as the top four posts.
“The People’s Supreme Court is mandated to rule on the top cases of the Lao PDR. Therefore, the President of the People’s Supreme Court and Supreme Prosecutor should be elected solely by the NA,” he said. 
Amendments also seek to allow Assembly members to relocate to other constituencies when MPs are appointed to new posts in provinces outside their constituencies.
Debates at Tuesday’s session also included proposed termination of NA membership for those whose certified health condition was unfavourable, as well as those taking up posts in foreign countries and those studying (in Laos or other countries) for periods of up to three years or more.b

By Souksakhone Vaenkeo
(Latest Update July 1, 2020)

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