Activists Rally for Election in Vietnam, Challenging Communist Rule
Doan Trang Vietnam
Posted: Feb 25,
A campaign to challenge the Communist party in upcoming legislative elections is
gathering momentum despite signs that the police are closely monitoring
potential independent candidates.
Ten civil society activists in Hanoi have joined
the veteran pro-democracy campaigner, Dr Nguyen Quang A, announcing they will
also stand for seats on the National Assembly in May.
The initiative reflects the growing confidence
of activists as they seek to rally popular support for an open challenge to the
Communist party’s monopoly on power.
Dr A’s campaign has emerged as a rallying point
for government critics, who see an opportunity to test recent statements by
Communist party leaders that Vietnam practices a high degree of democracy.
A former party member, army officer and
entrepreneur, Dr A says he will campaign on an agenda of legal reform, proposing
the repeal of repressive and unconstitutional laws.
Another independent candidate, Nguyen Thuy Hanh,
posted a video clip saying she would run in order “to exercise my rights as a
She said her priorities would be to
internationalise the territorial disputes between China and Vietnam, and to
protect women from domestic violence.
Some of the candidates say they have already
received visits from the police to question them about their intentions.
Some potential candidates said they would wait
and assess the reaction of the police before deciding whether to run.
Human rights activists see an opportunity to
raise their profile by standing for election.
None of the independent candidates, however, appear to believe they have a
realistic chance of winning a seat, because of a nomination process that is
controlled by the Communist party and its proxies, such as the Fatherland Front.
Their aim is to test the reaction of the
authorities, and to expose to public view the procedures that are used to impede
a democratic process.
Analysts said the emergence of independent
candidates, nonetheless, indicated that the democratic movement was getting
stronger, and had much improved its use of social networking and the rapid
dissemination of information.
Fixed in advance
The campaign could prove embarrassing for the
Communist party if its claims to back a democratic system are exposed to public
view as a sham.
The candidates will have an opportunity to
highlight the tactics used by the Communist party to exclude opposition
candidates during the nomination process.
In past elections the number of candidates and
elected deputies has been fixed in advance through a process known
euphemistically as “structuring” the National Assembly.
The party says this process ensures that the
right level of representation is assigned to various social groups including
women, peasants, industrial workers, entrepreneurs, ethnic minorities, and
However, more than 90% of legislators have
always been party members.
The majority stay silent or express no
independent opinions in a body that has largely served as a rubber stamp,
intended to give some form of procedural legitimacy to rule by the Communist
party, which sets policy guidelines and controls the executive branch of
A few delegates, however, have raised critical
voices in the past and have received praise in the media for what is often cited
as their “honesty and bravery”.
Some even took on a heroic stature in the eyes
of the public, most notably Nguyen Minh Thuyet, Le Thi Nga, and Nguyen Dinh Xuan,
but any dissent is contained within a strictly controlled format.
Despite this, voter turnout has been extremely
high in previous elections and the dissident candidates do see some
opportunities to benefit from this apparent public enthusiasm for elections.