The first legislative elections in Laos since the Communist Party seized power in 1975 are being seen as a reluctant response to the trend toward more democracy among the country's main allies - the Soviet Union and Vietnam.

"We feel the election (Sunday) is necessary to consolidate state power and further develop democracy," said Somsavat Lengsavath, deputy prime minister.Somsavat told reporters 60 to 70 percent of the 121 candidates in the election are members of the Communist Party and all were nominated according to their ability to explain and implement party policies.

Diplomats say the election is a reluctant Laotian response to the trend toward more democracy among the Soviet Union and Vietnam, the main allies of the isolated country of 3.8 million people.