Under the constitution of 1947 (as subsequently amended), Laos was a parliamentary democracy with a king as the nominal chief executive. The monarch was assisted by a prime minister (or president of the Council of Ministers), who was the executive and legislative leader in fact. The prime minister and cabinet were responsible to the national assembly, the main repository of legislative authority, whose 59 members were elected every five years by universal adult suffrage. With the establishment of the Lao People's Democratic Republic in December 1975, governmental authority passed to a national congress made up of 264 delegates elected by newly appointed local authorities. The congress in turn appointed a 45-member Supreme People's Council to draw up a new constitution. Pending the completion of this task effective power rested with Kaysone Phomvihan, a longtime Pathet Lao leader who headed the government as chairman of the Council of Ministers and was also secretary-general of the Lao People's Revolutionary (Communist) Party.
Prince Souphanouvong, the head of state and president of the Supreme People's Council since 1975, left office in October 1986 because of poor health. He was replaced first by Phoumi Vongvichit, a former vice-chairman of the Council of Ministers, and later by Sisomphon Lovansay, a former vice president of the Supreme People's Council. The Lao national legislature, the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA), adopted new election laws in 1988, and the first national elections under the current government took place in March 1989 (local elections were held in 1988). Kaysone Phomvihan was elected president and Khamtai Siphandon was named prime minister. The newly elected SPA set out to draft a constitution, which was finished in mid-1990, and adopted on 14 August 1991 by the SPA. Khamtai Siphandon was elected president in 1998, and reelected in 2001. The executive branch consists of the president, prime minister and two deputy prime ministers, and the Council of Ministers (cabinet) which are appointed by the president with the approval of the National Assembly. The legislative branch is the 109-member National Assembly which is elected by universal suffrage for a period of five years. The judicial branch is the Supreme People's Court Leaders. The constitution calls for a strong legislature elected by secret ballot, but most political power continues to rest with the party-dominated council of ministers, who are much aligned with the military.