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Vietnam - Politics

A new state constitution was approved in April 1992, reaffirming the central role of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) in politics and society, and outlining government reorganization and increased economic freedom. Though Vietnam remains a one-party state, adherence to ideological orthodoxy has become less important than economic development as a national priority. It is a system that always seeks out the middle ground and doesn’t move to extremes. It always moves gradually and cautiously. It is business as usual and it is people who are known. It is a culture where seniority matters.

Politics in Vietnam is not about personalities and rivalries. Instead, the landscape is made up of factions united through personal relationships rather than ideology. Serving in government involves jockeying for positions behind senior leaders. The absolute key driver of politics in Vietnam is to position oneself in order to make money through a variety of means.

Notwithstanding the 1992 constitution's reaffirmation of the central role of the Communist Party, the National Assembly, according to the constitution, is the highest representative body of the people and the only organization with legislative powers. It has a broad mandate to oversee all government functions. Once seen as little more than a rubber stamp, the National Assembly has become more vocal and assertive in exercising its authority over lawmaking, particularly in recent years. However, the National Assembly is still subject to Communist Party direction. More than 90% of the deputies in the National Assembly are Communist Party members.

The National Assembly meets twice yearly for 7-10 weeks each time; elections for members are held every 5 years, although its Standing Committee meets monthly and there are now over 140 "full-time" deputies who function on various committees. In 2007, the National Assembly introduced parliamentary "question time," in which cabinet ministers must answer often-pointed questions from National Assembly members.

A Party Congress meets every 5 years to set the direction of the party and the government. The Central Committee is elected by the Party Congress and usually meets at least twice a year. The Politburo, selected during the Party Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam and headed by the Communist Party General Secretary, determines government policy; its Secretariat oversees day-to-day policy implementation. In addition, the Communist Party's Central Military Commission, which is composed of select Politburo members and additional military leaders, determines military policy.

The purpose of front organizations is to mobilize and recruit for the party and to monitor the activities of their members in cooperation with local security agents. Organizations may be segregated by sex, age, national origin, profession, or other traits designated by the party. From members of front organizations, such as the Red-Scarf Teenagers' Organization and the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth League, the party is able to select potential party members.

The Vietnam Fatherland Front, because it unites a number of subordinate front organizations, is the most important. Its first unified national congress took place in January 1977 when all national front organizations, including the National Front for the liberation of South Vietnam, informally called the National Liberation Front (NLF, Mat Tran Dan Toc Giai Nam Viet Nam), operating in the south, were merged under its banner. In the late 1980s, the Vietnam General Confederation of Trade Unions, described by the party as the "broadest mass organization of the working class," was also significant because its members, along with party members, state employees, and members of the Youth League, were included among the elite granted material privileges by the state. Finally, the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth League was important because it acted to screen, train, and recruit party members.

The government continued to restrict public debate and criticism severely. Press freedom is severely restricted” in Vietnam, which ranks 175th out of 180 countries in Paris-based Reporters Without Borders 2017 World Press Freedom Index. No public challenge to the legitimacy of the one-party state was permitted, although there were instances of unsanctioned public letters from private citizens critical of government policy. For example, former government officials and leading academicians criticized the government’s decision to allow substantial foreign investment in bauxite mining and its handling of sovereignty claims in the South China Sea (East Sea). The government continued to crack down on the small, opposition political groups established in 2006, and group members faced arrests and arbitrary detentions.

The law limits freedom of assembly, and the government continued to restrict and monitor all forms of public protest or gathering. Law and regulation require persons wishing to gather in a group to apply for a permit, which local authorities may issue or deny arbitrarily. Only those arranging publicized gatherings to discuss sensitive matters appeared to require permits, and persons routinely gathered in informal groups without government interference. The government generally did not permit demonstrations that could be seen to have a political purpose. The government also restricted the right of several unregistered religious groups to gather in worship.

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Page last modified: 08-01-2021 13:58:03 ZULU