Ninety-six Percent! Dream Results in Vietnam’s Parliamentary Election


Partyforumseasia: The election was on 22 May but given remaining logistical problems in rural areas and some other incidents, the National Election Council (NEC) announced the final results only on Thursday, 9 June.
VN election 5.16Political parties world wide can only dream of winning 96 percent of the seats, but most of them have a big handicap, they have to compete with other parties. Vietnam’s Communist Party has no party competitors in the single party system, but this year independents and activists have tried to make inroads into parliament in bigger numbers than ever before. True to Vladimir Ilyich Lenin‘s advice “trust is Leningood control is better”, the authorities have painstakingly screened the 100 odd independent candidates. According to the constitution, every citizen of Vietnam over 21 has the right to run, but the umbrella organization of all Vietnamese mass organizations, the Vietnam Fatherland Front (VFF) has a mandate to screen all candidates, whether fielded by the Communist Party, other mass organizations or self-nominated. In the 2015 Law on the Vietnam Fatherland Front Article 19 stipulates: “The Vietnam Fatherland Front shall organize in accordance with law consultations, selection and nomination of candidates for deputies to the National Assembly or People’s Councils;…” With the authorities already alarmed before the nomination deadline on March 13, the VFF has done the required job by eliminating all but 11 self-nominated candidates for the National Assembly, two of them being finally elected. Since the vetting process is not transparent, the rejected candidates and their supporters are not happy. A prominent victim of the screening, the “five gates”, was pop star Mai Khoi, also called Vietnam’s Lady Gaga. For her campaign posters she had dressed down considerably, showing herself as a serious conservative candidate, which was obviously not enough to make her trustworthy.
Vietnamese Lady GagaMai Khoi

Only two elected self-nominated candidates, one of them a businessman from the North, and a hematologist, means 50 % less than in the last election, when four had made it. Another 19 non-party members have been nominated by state institutions, down from 42 non party members altogether last time.

Among the other results, published so far, are:

– An enormous voter turnout of 99.35 %

National Assembly: 496 members (317 first-timers) elected out of 870 candidates Four seats remain vacant because of insufficient turnout in four provinces. Maybe the same shortcoming has been reported in Singapore’s Straits Times (Link): “Deputy assembly chairman Phung Quoc Hien said the high national turnout showed the ballot was a success, even with some instances of fraud and calls on social media for a voter boycott.” Oh-oh!

– To be elected were also  3,918 provincial councilors, 24,993 district councilors and 294,055 commune councilors for the 2016-2021 period. The official announcements so far focus on the National Assembly. It is not excluded that the local results are not everywhere as expected…

The chairperson of the NEC acknowledges that “There were some errors on voting cards that led to invalid votes and forced a re-election in some cases. There were also some cases of negligence when it came to controlling the number of ballots issued and the number received. Many constituencies didn’t elect enough representatives, especially at communal level, and some people voted on others’ behalf” (VNExpress, June 8)

– 62.5 % of elected delegates have a master’s degree or higher; 36.3 a bachelor’s degree; and 1.2 percent, or six delegates, don’t have a degree at all. The party does not mention workers and farmers any more.

133 delegates are women, 26.8 % and slightly short of the 30 % target

Vietnam’s ethnic minorities hold 17.3 % of the seats

– 182  candidates (36.7 percent of total NA delegates) have been nominated centrally, 312 delegates were nominated by local organizations
But nearly half of the centrally nominated candidates in Ho Chi Minh City have not been elected and about a third in Hanoi, with a few more in smaller places, altogether 15. The alleged national unity seems to have some risky corners. 

– All top leaders were re-elected, General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong with 86.47 %; President Tran Dai Quang with 75.08 % ; Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc with 99.48 %; and NA Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan with 91.46 %
The lowest score went to the minister for Natural Resources and Environment, probably because of the dead fish crisis, but his 65 % would still be a dream result in more competitive systems

Open Questions to follow up:
Behind the official fanfares about the feast of democracy in Vietnam it will be interesting to wait for more information about the provinces with insufficient turnout and the four vacant seats. But even more interesting will be detailed results of the Peoples’ Councils elections on all levels from province down to the municipalities. Communication and social networks won’t make it easier for the party to control nearly 100 m Vietnamese.

 

 

 

 

 

How Communist Are Vietnam’s Communists?


Trong

Nguyen Phu Trong

Partyforumseasia: The re-election of 72-year-old Nguyễn Phú Trọng as Sectretary General of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) seems to signal that the old guard is still pulling the strings. But there were also rumors during the 12th Party Congress (20-28 January 2016) that he may step down before the next congress in five years time and make way for a younger leader. How much compromise behind the scenes will be necessary for such a handover is difficult to gauge. The CPV is still communist enough not to display internal power struggles too openly. But among the published political resolutions of the congress were:
“Strengthen the party, repulse ideological decay, prevent “self-evolution”, and “train and prepare quality cadres, especially at “strategic level”.
All that sounds very much like concerns about the ideological coherence of a single ruling party which must, like other remaining communist parties, uphold its justification to rule over an increasingly complex citizenship. But it betrays as well the dilemma of the leadership to keep its grip on power while talking more openly than ever before about failures and shortcomings it is being held responsible for by the electorate. With internet penetration close to 50% and the ubiquity of mobile phones more Vietnamese can see that the country’s economic performance is well below its real potential. Maintaining Communist domination is still possible, as in China, but getting more difficult with the success stories of some neighbors in ASEAN with less interference into the markets.

Here are some more interesting details about Vietnam’s ruling party, all charts by courtesy of Dr. Le Hong Hiep, at the moment visiting fellow at the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore:
Hiep 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NB: The party is more cautious than five years ago. The industrialization development goal has been changed from 2020 to “soon“….
The membership has increase by roughly one million to 4.5 m, meaning that the party has softened its elitist approach, and more citizens find it rewarding to be a member, probably because of some material or other privileges.

Hiep 5

NB: The newly elected Central Committee (CC) is younger ( average age 53 ) and many members have better educational credentials, but only 10% are female.
Reunification Day, Victory Day or Liberation Day is dating back to  April 30, 1975, nearly 41 years ago. But only 22 % of the members represent the South in the new CC. There is some lingering resentment about that in the CC and the population of the South.

What can be expected from the new team? The party maintains its strong grip on power and control. The reform process must and will continue but pace and effectiveness are uncertain. The constraints within the system will not unleash the full potential of Vietnam as fast as it could be done.

Socialist Party Cooperation: China-Cambodia and Vietnam-Russia


A week ago Partyforumseasia had taken up the “development cooperation” between China’s Communist Party and the royalist Funcinpec Party of Cambodia. Another interesting cooperation is starting between Vietnam’s Communists and the A Just Russia Party or Справедливая Россия, СР in Russian. The latter, supposed to be social-democratic, was established end of 2006 as a collection of merging and rather heterogenous smaller parties. It promises to develop the New Socialism of the 21st Century. According to the Institute of Modern Russia (Link here) the party “has faithfully played the role of the (Putin) regime’s “left foot”, legitimized by its membership in the Socialist International (SI), but enjoys an opposition image in Russia.
SEDSocialist cooperation: This handshake on the flag of the Socialist Unity Party of East Germany symbolized the not all voluntary merger of Socialists and Communists in 1946, “faciltated” by the Soviet Union which occupied the East of Germany between the end of WW II and unification in 1989.

The party to party cooperation seems to be less advanced than the Funcinpec – CCP training program, but desired on both sides. On 28 April the Voice of Vietnam (Link here) reports that “A delegation of the Communist Party of Vietnam has attended an international workshop in Moscow at the invitation of the A Just Russia Party.” The report reveals a certain socialist formality of the meeting: (Chairman) “Mironov affirmed that the A Just Russia Party backs the comprehensive strategic partnership between Russia and Vietnam and treasures ties with the Vietnamese Communist Party, hoping that bilateral relations can be elevated to a new height.He spoke highly of the Vietnamese struggle for independence as well as the achievements made by the Vietnamese people in the four decades since.”
D
eputy head of Vietnam’s Central Committee’s Commission for External Relations Nguyen Tuan Phongcongratulated the Russian people on the 70th anniversary of victory in the Great Patriotic War, and hailed the success of the international workshop organised by the A Just Russia Party.”
With improving ties between Vietnam and the US, as well as their Pivot on Asia, Russia may be somewhat nostalgic about the cold war alliance with Vietnam. And with the Ukraine crisis threatening to isolate Russia, ideological partners are most welcome. China, though, seems to be far ahead with training courses for the Cambodian Funcinpec officials – and maybe other fraternal parties…

Vietnamese Water Puppets or Really More Transparency?


Partyforumseasia: Invisibly for the audience, the famous Vietnamese water puppets are manipulated from behind the scene and under the water surface on which they perform. water puppetsIn good old Southeast Asian tradition, like the typical shadow play, invisible manipulation has long been typical for communist and other authoritarian regimes like the one in Vietnam. But more or less dark secrets like the infamous “arcana imperii” of the old Romans have been part of politics world wide. So, smiles on the stage and ferocious infighting behind the scene have been all too normal for the one party rule. The big question for analysts and observers is now whether the Communist Party of Vietnam is really opening up to more transparency in an era of rather uncontrollable social media and public demand. In view of the serious political shortcomings which have hampered the potential dynamism of Vietnam’s economy (see the recent post on this website) , the party may open up in order to win back some of the trust it has lost among the voters.
Under the headline “Vietnam: Open Secrets on the Road to Succession” (Link) cogitAsia has published an article by Vietnam expert Prof. Jonathan D. London from the Southeast Asia Research Centre at the City University of Hong Kong. London is focusing on the coming leadership succession in 2016 and the preparations for it within the Central Committee:
“As in most one-party states, the politics of succession in Vietnam is meant to take place back stage. Evidence of what is actually occurring is systematically concealed. It is Vietnam’s present deviation from this pattern that has observers taking notice. Indeed, the manner in which events are playing out is lifting a curtain on Vietnam’s elite politics in a way that is without historical precedent. There have been several sets of surprises.
The first set has sprung from the process and alleged but non-verifiable outcomes of an unusual and nominally secretive round of confidence voting, in which 197 members of the Central Committee rated individual members of the Politburo according to their degree of confidence in members’ performance. That the Politburo would subject itself to a round of confidence voting by its formally supervisory Central Committee reminds us that, when it comes to politics, Vietnam’s party has cut its own cloth. China this is not.

The most interesting new development is the public scrutiny of top officials and party leaders which is going on for some time already by showing parliamentary sessions on TV.
“Though most Vietnamese do not follow party politics closely, Vietnam has in recent years developed an increasingly dynamic political culture, thanks to the rapid spread of the internet and the opportunities it has presented Vietnamese to read about and comment about virtually anything that strikes them, including politics.
This leads to a third intriguing development, the appearance of mysterious and heavily visited website, Profiles in Power, which has within the past several weeks published scandalous but seemingly well-documented accounts of several Politburo members’ alleged bad-behavior, including at least two members who were regarded as likely shoe-ins for 2016. The appearance of the website and discussion it has sparked has clearly had an impact, and prompted government calls to steer clear of it.

Though it may well be some sort of water puppet manipulation, Prof. London comes to the cautious conclusion that “recent events evidence greater transparency in Vietnam’s politics. Though not by design, this is nonetheless a significant development. It’s a pinhole view into Vietnam’s increasingly dynamic political scene.”

Vietnam’s Central Party Committee Meeting: How to Read the Results


Partyforumseasia: According to today’s (13.01.2015) Viet Nam News (Link) “the committee nominated more officials to strategic positions, cast confidence votes for members of the Politburo and the Party Secretariat and elected more officials to the Central Committee’s Inspection Commission.(…) The Party Central Committee (CPC) wrapped up its 10th meeting in Ha Noi yesterday with a review of the leadership and direction of the Politburo and the Party Secretariat in 2014.”

Viet NamThe Viet Nam News – report is interesting reading  in so far as it is obviously not formulated as a flattering success story. Problems for which the ruling party is responsible are made more visible than hidden between the lines, as is usual among Communist and other authoritarian regimes. Partyforumseasia suggests a few translations (original from the article in italics) into more outspoken plain English, alternative and improved “translations” are welcome!

“The CPC emphasised the need for Party building, especially in efforts to prevent and curb the degradation of political ideology, ethics and lifestyle among Party members.”
= Many party members are corrupt and don’t care about the Communist ideology.

“In terms of civil service reforms, the Committee said it was important to improve existing staff and attract talented people to work for Party and State agencies, organisations and public units.”
= There are too many underperforming civil servants, it is difficult to compete with the private sector.

“It said the press should be developed professionally and effectively to meet public demand for information, while uniting society and contributing to the development of the country and its people.”
= Our controlled press is too boring and the people don’t reed it.

“National defence and security should also be strengthened with social progress and fairness ensured, making it easier for the country to pursue its path in global integration, he said.”
= We have problems with the armed forces, draft and pay are not fair enough.

“He asked for more studies on important issues, especially the settlement of bad debts and macro-economic stabilization plans.”
= After decades of reform we are still struggling with economic and financial problems.

“Delving into a proposal related to a more synchronous political and economic overhaul, the leader said that it involved stronger efforts to accelerate Party building and stop political and moral degradation to create a consensus within the Party and society at large.”
= Our party suffers from a lack of consensus, internally and with the society.

As Ferdinand Lasalle (1825-64, one of the godfathers of early Socialism in Germany) said, “All great political action starts with the definition of the problems. Covering them up is petty political brinkmanship.”
Vietnam’s Central Party Committee
is definitely correct in naming the shortcomings. May their correction be fast and successful in the interest of this great nation and her people.

Vietnam’s Communist Party and the Media


Partyforumseasia: In authoritarian systems people are used to read between the lines, ignoring more or less the propaganda packaging of the news. The attached recent article from Vietnam News allows a glimpse into a way of informing the public which looks touchingly old fashioned in the age of internet and social media. The powerful secretary general of the all powerful single party has a nice discussion with a group of  undefined voters informing them about the good progress in the work of party and government.
But the list of shortcomings in this report is long and comprehensive. The voters are concerned about corruption, low quality and hazardous fake products, the high public debt, slow law enforcement, public service (or probably bureaucracy) reduction and the organization of the People’s Council. Rectifying all these is really a tall order for government and party, but at least the voters know that they are working on it. And “Ho Chi Minh’s moral example” will help.

Trung and voters                          Secretary General Nguyễn Phú Trọng in the middle
                                     Party leader meets Ha Noi voters.

Vietnam News 8.12.2014 Link here:
Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong met with voters in Ha Noi’s Ba Dinh, Hoan Kiem and Tay Ho districts on Saturday to inform them of the outcomes of the National Assembly’s eighth session and listen to their opinions. Most voters praised the outcomes of the session, especially the vote of confidence and responses cabinet members gave during question-and-answer sessions. Many voiced concerns about issues related to corruption and low-quality and fake commodities that seriously affected people’s health. Regarding foreign investment attraction, they emphasised the need to carefully consider socio-economic and defence interests, ensuring that investment did not affect national security. Voters also worried about high public debts and Government bond debts, slow enforcement of laws, and emerging problems in education and training. Acknowledging voters’ opinions, the Party chief said that during the NA’s eighth session, 30 laws were debated, 18 laws were passed and many important resolutions were approved. Deputies passed a resolution to conduct a vote of confidence on officials holding positions elected or approved by the NA and People’s Councils, he said. He also agreed with voters on the need to promote the role and responsibilities of deputies to ensure the quality and efficiency of the NA.
Regarding anti-corruption efforts, Trong said the Party was determined to fight corruption and wastefulness without compromise while maintaining political stability. In the coming time, the Party would continue speeding up implementation of the Party Central Committee’s resolution on party building as well as the Politburo’s resolution on studying and following President Ho Chi Minh’s moral example, he said. Regarding the East Sea issue, General Secretary Trong underscored that a series of measures had been rolled out to protect national independence and sovereignty while maintaining an environment of peace and stability for development and friendship with other countries, and not allowing external forces to cause disturbances. “We are determined to follow a foreign policy of peace, independence, self-reliance and friendship with all countries,” he said. He also mentioned a number of issues raised by voters, including public servant reduction, wage reform, the organisation of the People’s Council and ensuring law enforcement. Trong said he hoped to hear more from voters to help the Party and National Assembly improve their performance. (…)”

TrungNguyễn Phú Trọng (born 14 April 1944) is the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, elected at the party’s 11th National Congress on 19 January 2011.Trong heads the party’s Secretariat, as well as the Central Military Commission,the country’s two most powerful policy making bodies. (Wikipedia)

For more information see: Le, Kim: The Communist Party of Vietnam: A Party in B&N bookTransition. In: Wolfgang Sachsenröder (ed.), Party Politics in Southeast Asia, Singapore 2014, pp. 346-410 (available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other internet bookstores)

Vietnam: “Tet Offensive” Towards More Democracy?


Partyforumseasia: It has not been a secret that Vietnam ‘s recent economic performance was dismal and much below her potential – largely due to red tape and mismanagement by the ruling Communist Party. Understanding that the Vietnamese people understand that very well and that resentment against the party is growing rapidly, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung Dungmay be trying to change course and make himself the savior of party and country at the same time. Vietnamese researcher Huong Le Thu from the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore sees a number of announcements in Dung’s new year address which might open up party, economy and civil society for a more dynamic development in the next few years.

Huong: “Indeed, Dung has sensed the desire of the nation well — he knows that at the current atmosphere whoever carries the ‘democracy flag’ will have the people’s support.”                                See her assessment in the EastAsiaForum here: LINK