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.

 

 

 

 

 

The Future of Singapore’s PAP – Part II


Partyforumseasia:  In most countries with a liberal democratic system anywhere in the world any political party would be more than happy with the comfortable absolute majority the People’s Action Party is enjoying since sixty years. PAP 50But there are also few parties world-wide which have ruled as successfully as the PAP (though there are few city states for comparison). The authoritarian style of founding father and patriarch Lee Kuan Yew, now 91, has been gradually softened under successor Goh Chok Tong and more so under son Lee Hsien Loong. So the debate about future dangers to the PAP looks somewhat overly fearful in comparison to the narrow majorities and shaky coalitions in other countries. As already quoted in part I, Netina Tan has described the mechanisms in the Singapore system which favor the ruling party. Link here:
Parliament SGRocking a big boat like Singapore and the PAP is certainly difficult. Nevertheless, losing one six-member group constituency which looked unassailable in 2011 and a by-election 2013 is painful for a party spoiled by decades of success. And one can expect differences within the party, maybe with a faction that does not fully support the softened style of the Prime Minister.
With the 60th anniversary of the PAP, the 50th of independent Singapore and general elections coming up in 2015, the crystal ball is being kept rather busy. The latest contribution by Han Fook Kwang, senior editor at large at the Straits Times (9.11.2014, the question mark cartoon above also in this article), is correctly adjusting the question to what the PAP will have to do to stay in power. For there are no real threats in the party scene with the runner up Workers’ Party far behind with 7 elected and 2 non constituency (or consolation prize) MPs against 80 PAP parliamentarians.
What is conspicuously missing in the public debate so far is the possibility of a coalition government. At least in the next few decades the election law will not make a coalition government necessary if the PAP can win majorities in Parliament even with less than 50% of the popular vote. Neighboring Malaysia has that already since last year and many other countries with majoritarian or first-past-the-post systems as well.
So the PAP may just be nervous about more signs of protest votes in various forms and some activists being more fearless than anyone since the crackdown on Communists in the 1950s and 1960s. Obviously there is a ant-establishment subculture among younger Singaporeans who take all the material achievements for granted and see social injustices from a subjective, if not parochial perspective. The debate about the supposed shortcomings of the Central Provident Fund (CPF) seems to be a point in case. Social security for everybody is difficult to achieve, and increasing life expectancy threatens all pension schemes in rich countries. But in terms of distribution justice Singapore’s CPF system can match most other schemes.

PAP 1PAP 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See the Singapore chapter by Netina Tan in
B&N book

 

 

 

available at Amzon, Barnes & Noble and other e-book retailers.

Voter Turnout in Southeast Asia


Partyforumseasia: IFES, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, offers a broad choice of reference material. We have selected the countries in Southeast Asia for easier reading. But the world-wide comparison is helping us to avoid prima-vista conclusions. If a higher voter turnout would mean more democratic legitimation, Vietnam and Laos were twice as democratic as the United States of America. Doubts about the USA’s political system are allowed and widespread among Americans, but there is no comparison here with the remaining Communist regimes in Southeast Asia.

As IFES points out at the end of a recent article on“Global Measures of Electoral Credibility: Voter Participation and Political Finance”By Ayesha Chugh and Hani Zainulbhai,September 17, 2014 – IFES ( Link ), “While variables like voter turnout and political finance are useful, electoral credibility is ultimately a nuanced concept that requires consideration of the full context of an election.”

Indeed, but it is certainly useful to compare the different systems in the region in light of the voter turnout in the last years. The following charts are due to IFES on www.ifes.int/vt/

The regional overview (Last parliamentary elections) Compiled by Partyforumseasia
vt WS

and world-wide:
Voter turnout

Detailed voter turnout statistics for the ten countries of Southeast Asia (Brunei has no parties) see the following page in the Partyforumseasia database:
Voter Turnout in Southeast Asia

 

American Dirty Campaign Experts Helping Prabowo?


Partyforumseasia – Strategy-Wise: Indonesia’s presidential election 2014 has generated a couple of surprises. From the meteoric rise of Jokowi and the unexpectedly successful catch-up counterattack of Prabowo, all developments can be explained within the system of the country’s new democratic paradigm. The personal charisma of Jokowi and the yearning of the voters for less corruption as well as cleaner and more transparent politics explains his probable though narrow victory. Ex-general Prabowo’s coming back from hopelessly lagging behind in the polls only some months ago is seen as the result of unlimited funding and a clockwork-like campaign machinery. Unfortunately, the Prabowo success was also based on the dirtiest campaign ever in a country which is known for a highly developed culture of social harmony, at least in Java where the majority of voters live.

devil1The campaign devil not in the PDI-P…

Partyforumseasia had taken up the topic of dirty campaign tricks on 8th and 11th May with the wicked fake obituary for Widodo and the incredible arsenal of poisonous campaign tools in the United States of America. But at that time we did not connect the US and Indonesian dirty campaign experts. Now we learn from Indonesia observer Marcus Mietzner from the Australian National University that the Prabowo campaign was supported by American experts in smear campaigns:
Advised by American consultants who previously had taught Republican candidates on how to drown out opponents in smear campaigns, Prabowo’s electoral machine spread false rumours that Jokowi was a Singaporean Chinese and a Christian. Jokowi, pushed into the defensive by the effectiveness of these attacks among Indonesia’s devout Muslim community, could never really develop his own narrative and platform. As a result, his once seemingly unassailable lead over Prabowo in the polls (in December 2013, he was ahead by 39 percentage points) melted away rapidly.
Link: EASTASIAFORUM, 13 July 2014:
Indonesia’s presidential elections: Jokowi in, Prabowo out
This type of development co-operation can only be called highly undesirable in a country still uncertain on her path to a stable democracy, but it should also backfire on the American party development support industry. Traditional black magic looks rather harmless in contrast to this specific export item!

Thailand’s Dilemma – Coherently Explained


Partyforumseasia: Thailand’s dilemma is certainly caused by severe elite failure. But it is difficult to decide whether Thaksin and his allies or the Bangkok elite and the Democrat Party are more to blame for the frightening cleavage dividing north and south and the society at large. Under the headline The Story of Thaksin Shinawatra  British journalist Richard Lloyd Parry draws the longer lines of the political impasse which help to understand the developments during the last months.
See his conclusion here:
“Many people bear responsibility for Thailand‘s divisions, prominent among them Thaksin, who must dearly wish that he had rubbed his enemies‘ noses in it a bit less gleefully during his years in office. ThaksinBut the suave villainy of the Democrat Party, and of men like Abhisit and Korn, is insufficiently recognised. They understand how democratic opposition works, and how defeat, over time, strengthens losing parties, by purging them of what is unrealistic and superfluous, and forcing them into congruence with the aspirations of voters. Twice they have had the opportunity to reject military force and to insist on the primacy of elections; twice they have held the generals‘ coats for them, and watched civil rights being trampled on, in the hope of gaining some respite from their own chronic unelectability. The Democrat Party‘s leaders – young, attractive and cosmopolitan could have positioned themselves as mediators between a corrupt, complacent old elite and a corrupt, arrogant new power. Instead, they chose their natural side in the class war, and achieved the feat of losing the moral high ground to a man such as Thaksin. Their responsibility, and their disgrace, are very great.”                 London Review of Books, 6 June 2014   Link here:
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n12/richard-lloydparry/the-story-of-thaksin-shinawatra

Partyforumseasia is notoriously optimistic about regional politics, but Lloyd Parry’s comment on the possibility of a North-South civil war reminds us of an earlier post on this blog which tried to wrap a warning into (hopefully!!) gross exaggeration.

WorldNewsAgency-WNA-WorldNewsAgency-WNA-WorldNewsAgency-WNA-WorldNe
15 February 2064:
The Southeast Asian Miracle: Thailand’s Re-Unification sealed!!
After the recent breakthrough in prolonged negotiations between the two sides and efficient diplomatic support from ASEAN, the heads of state of the Kingdom of Tightland (formerly known as South Thailand) and the Kingdom of Thaksimania (formerly known as North Thailand) have signed a comprehensive re-unification treaty. The signing ceremony took place in the UN Headquarters in Beijing in the presence of unification advisers from Germany and Korea.
After the former Thailand split in 2015, the founding father of Thaksimania, business-politician Thaksim Shinawatra was soon elected King of Thaksimania. The people loved him because he could fund the government out of his own pocket and reduce the tax burden to a symbolic 5%. This led to a massive migration of the business community from Bangkok and the South to Thaksimania, where they were warmly welcomed by his Majesty on the condition of participating in the funding of his government.
The impact on former South Thailand was more than difficult. The Royal Finance Ministry witnessed a rapidly dwindling inflow of taxes which could not be balanced by the most investment friendly policies worldwide. So the impoverished country succumbed to pressure from Thaksimania to drop the aggressive use of the outdated name of Thailand. To secure a sufficient flow of development aid from the rival in the North, the King agreed to change the official name of the state into Tightland. Starting around 2035 already, many countries in Asia were able to reduce or abolish taxes and military spending because the regional security was no longer threatened by the US but guaranteed by China. This ended the decades of saber rattling and aggressive symbolic politics between Tightland and Thaksimania which made the re-unification possible at the end. It remains to be seen how the population of the two nations will adapt to the changes and the big difference in affluence. 😉

De-mock-racy or Demo-crazy? Political Brinkmanship in Thailand


SuthepPartyforumseasia observes with sadness the ongoing political drama in Thailand. Obviously former Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban from the Democrat Party tries to topple the Yingluck government at any cost for the country. By increasing the regional division between the predominantly Democrat controlled South and the overwhelmingly Puea Thai leaning North as well as between Bangkok and the rural majority he plays with fire. And by whipping up political passions hitherto unknown in the country, the future governability of a nation of 70 million people will be at risk. Many internal analysts speak already of the threat of a civil war, the spreading violence between the groups already being frightening enough.
PM Yingluck Shinawatra and Puea Thai, according to all polls, will win the February 2 election, if it materializes. This dominance over the ballot boxes can be seen as engineered by risky populist policies like cheap (30 THB) health care for the poor and rice subsidies for farmers which cost hundreds of billions and are not sustainable even medium term.
But Suthep and his supporters in the Democrat Party will be held responsible for the damage they risk to do to Thailand’s democratic and economic  development and the country’s future governability. 

Strategy or Kamikaze? Thailand’s Democrat Party…


Partyforumseasia: … between the devil and the deep blue sea, or in the more drastic German variation of the saying, choosing between plague and cholera?The problems of the Democrat Party are serious enough: It has not won an election since 1992, it narrowly escaped dissolution for irregularities with campaign donations, Chairman Abhisit Vejjajiva, just re-elected yesterday, is indicted for murder as main responsible for the army crackdown on protesters in 2010, and Prime Minister Yingluck may have outmaneuvered them by calling elections for February.
The Democrat lawmakers have resigned en masse to join Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy Prime Minister and prominent Democrat. Suthep is now the leader of protests against the “Thaksin system”, rallying hundreds of thousands and organizing illegal blockades around ministries and government buildings. This political “pied piper of Hamelin” is demanding that an unelected “people’s council” introduces reforms before the next Parliament may be elected in a year’s time.
SuthepIf the Democrat Party follows Suthep, they will decide on 27 December to boycott the February elections. Participating would probably mean that they lose against Puea Thai, the Thaksin Party. Boycotting would mean losing the Democrat in the party’s name. The party is probably split internally, so their strategy of resignation from Parliament may turn out to be more kamikaze than strategy.

But PM Yingluck had her own kamikaze strategy: her amnesty bill triggered the whole turmoil the country is facing now and more and more affects tourism and economy.

Malaysia: A Good Question Concerning the Pakatan Rakyat Opposition Coalition


Partyforumseasia: Prime Minister Najib Razak’s leadership of UMNO has been strenghthened and confirmed by the recent internal party polls. Najib 6.12.13For the time being there are no visible challengers around and Najib feels more than confident in promising the 3000 party leaders attending the annual meeting a continuation of the “Malays First Policy”. This is seen as race based by the roughly 40% Non-Malay Malaysians and has contributed to a surge in the popular vote for the opposition in the general election in May.
In terms of election strategy this makes sense, though, since UMNO’s main support comes from carefully gerrymandered rural constituencies with huge Malay majorities. As long as the first-past-the-post electoral system remains UMNO can focus on these vote banks while the opposition coalition might win the urban votes but fail to win a majority in parliament.

An interesting question has been raised by Murray Hunter in the New Mandala: Whether Pakatan Rakyat deserves to be in government!!!!
See (link here) New Mandala

PRakyat Whether a party or coalition really deserves to be in government is a difficult question. But there are indeed some big question marks concerning the cohesion and stability of the Pakatan Rakyat coalition. Some see the three coalition partners as somewhat strange bed fellows, united only in their struggle against the ruling Barisan Nasional.

Philippines: End of Pork Barrel Politics? Party Financing Endangered…


Partyforumseasia: Scandals can speed up necessary reforms. At a time when the strongest ever tropical storm hit the Philippines, one of the ugliest political corruption scandals has started to change the political porklandscape in Manila. Triggered by a whistle-blower, businesswoman and alleged “Pork Queen” Janet Lim Napoles has been exposed as central facilitator for abusing development funds for kickbacks to congressmen and senators. This method of funding politicians and political parties, partially via fake NGOs, was widely known, but never exposed like now. And the alleged dimensions are certainly outrageous in a country with the remaining poverty level of the Philippines. One of the prominent accused is veteran politician Juan Ponce Enrile (89), who only some months ago had to resign as president of the senate because of abusing senate funds. The alleged kickbacks for the multimillionaire are supposed to be 363 million Pesos (more than 8 million US$!!), half of his pork allocation. Other colleagues are liable for similar sums, that means that development funds earmarked for infrastructure projects in the respective constituencies have been used for campaign and party funding, maybe for private purposes as well.
In the face of massive demonstrations during the last few months, also against President Aquino, who won his election with an anti-corruption campaign, politicians have started to back-paddle. As of November 12th, nine senators had already declared that they are waiving their PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) – allocations for 2014.
The political establishment may find other ways of refinancing, though, similar to creative new money politics in Indonesia. Cash transfers being too dangerous now, credit card payments, insurance policies, fixed assets and landed property seem to be a way out…

Appendix: 1 billion Pesos are nearly 23 million US$
PDAF

Political “Dynasties” in Southeast Asia


Partyforumseasia: Political families are not uncommon in party politics, take for example the 41st President of the United States, George H.W. Bush and his son, the 43d President, George W. In Europe it happens less on the top level, but often enough in regional and local politics. The corruption and enrichment scandal in Indonesia’s Banten province and the remarkable career of Mukhriz Mahathir in Malaysia have brought the issue back into the media. MukhrizIn the Mukhriz case two narrowly lost elections, his candidacy for one of UMNO’s vice-presidential posts and the recent by-election in the federal state of Kedah, where he supported the local party candidate, are interpreted as defeat and the campaign support by his father Mahathir Mohamad, 88, a liability, signalling the end of father Mahathir’s overpowering influence in Malaysia’s and UMNO’s politics.
RatuThe Banten case (already posted by Partyforumseasia) has much broader ramifications with family members of the governor Ms Ratu Atut holding seats in the national parliament, mayors, deputy regents and numerous business positions close to politics and administration. Continuing practices of money politics remind many Indonesians too much of Suharto’s family clan and the enrichment of his sons.
If the Banten-related corruption case involving the chief justice of the Constitutional Court should turn out as the tip of the iceberg, as it looks like, it will be more than difficult to fight family dynasties and money politics throughout the huge Indonesian archipelago.
By the way: Partyforumseasia has other (possible) family dynasties on its radar:
Thailand: Not only sister Yingluck, but also son Panthongtae Shinawatra
Malaysia: Mukhriz Mahathir from UMNO and Nik Abduh from PAS
Singapore: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, a successful succession with a long break after his father resigned.

Malaysia: UMNO Polls Without Surprise


Partyforumseasia:The internal party polls are over, UMNO president Najib and his deputy were confirmed uncontested. As The Star Online (click for the link) summarises today, 20 October 2013, “Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s call for status quo resounded within the party.”

All incumbents for the top party posts have been re-elected, and the probably most anticipated possible win of “rising son” Mukhriz Mahathir was narrowly avoided with 91 votes for Mukhriz and 100 for the incumbent. Mukhriz 1
Speculations that Prime Minister Najib Razak’s position as party president had been weakened after the May general election were obviously exaggerated, if even the women wing’s leader Sharizat, tainted

by her “cowgate”- corruption scandal, made it easily with a 90% majority.

The real balance of power between the different factions in the party remains mostly behind the wayang kulit screen, though. But according to analyst Bridget Welsh from Singapore’s Management University, the Mahathir Mohamad camp is angry and expected to hit back (Malaysiakini, 20.10.)

What is interesting beyond the incumbents is how the new internal polling system worked and whether it changed the dynamics within the party. It is difficult to believe vice president Muhyddin’s statement that the new system is “not only a mission to eliminate money politics but more importantly, to strengthen the party by empowering the grassroots” (The Star Online, 20.10.) For the first time, not the traditional 2,500, but 230,000 delegates could vote, but only within one of the 191 branches. This gives the rural branches which are easier to control much more weight than the urban ones with more members. According to Bridget Welsh (Malaysiakini) there is also evidence of vote-buying and the usual top-down pattern in the new system.

Cambodia: Prime Minister Hun Sen Ignores Opposition


Partyforumseasia: Never underestimate the determination of Prime Minister Hun Sen to defend his grip on power and ignore the opposition which may have been tempted to overestimate its leverage after its success in the 28 July elections. Especially calling support from the international community gives Hun Sen the easy counter-argument that he will never allow such interference.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy might share the bitter experience of Anwar Ibrahim in Malaysia. They both have their nemesis in prime ministers clinging to power and defending a privileged access to the resources of their country.

Cambodia 1

The Voice of America Cambodia article (http://www.voacambodia.com/content/hun-sen-decries-foreign-interference-in-cambodian-politics/1757797.html) also quotes the PM:
“Hun Sen said in a six-hour address on Wednesday that he opposed “foreign interference” in Cambodia’s political affairs.
“We do not need the recognition of any president or ambassador,” Hun Sen said. “It’s not necessary to ask for the recognition of the UN secretary-general, or signature countries of the Paris Accords. I won’t allow any foreigners to dictate Cambodian politics.”
Partyforumseasia:
See also the insightful analysis by Phoak Kung in The Diplomat (http://thediplomat.com/2013/10/14/reforming-the-cambodian-peoples-party/) also available in Bomborra  (Click on the blue names to access the article)

Respect: UMNO’s Internal Election Reform


VitalsratistixPartyforumseasia: UMNO is getting serious in renewing the less than perfect internal election procedures. After 26 years of pre-democratically choosing the party president and his deputy without voting and by acclamation, this method described and  ridiculed in Asterix’s old Gaul, comes to an end. In the upcoming party elections, probably between mid July and mid August, UMNO will come back to a proper election of the two top leaders. It will remain to be seen whether the election will be competitive or not, and if yes, who will have the courage to openly challenge Prime Minister Najib.
Whether he will like it or not, the voting might show his support level in the party, at least by abstentions, spoiled or no votes.

The other part of the reform will expand the number of delegates with voting rights from 2,500 to 146,500, probably enough to make vote buying too expensive even for the richest UMNO members with ambitions for local leadership posts.
See also the short overview on the reform compiled by Singapore’s Straits Times of 29 June:
UMNO new voting system