Vietnam: Constitutional and Political Reforms Continue


Professor Carlyle A. Thayer

Vietnam's Ninth National Party Congress in April 2001 stamped its approval on a number of economic and political reforms to be carried out over the next five years. One of Vietnam's main priorities is to build and consolidate a 'law governed state' by enhancing the role of elected government institutions.

In December 2001 the National Assembly approved twenty-three amendments to the 1992 state Constitution as well as changes to the Electoral Law. Several of the amendments touched on the powers of the National Assembly itself. The National Assembly's Standing Committee will no longer be able to appoint or dismiss Cabinet-level officials, for example. This is now the prerogative of the National Assembly itself. Deputies may now hold a vote of no confidence on the performance of ministers. Under new electoral laws the size of the National Assembly will be expanded from 450 to 500 deputies.

In January, the National Assembly's Standing Committee announced that national elections would be held on 19 May 2002, the anniversary of Ho Chi Minh's birth. Vietnam will now begin the arduous process of candidate selection. According to a Politburo directive, 'an appropriate number of seats must be granted to ethnic minorities, women, youth, non-party members, religious believers and different social classes.' An attempt will be made to increase the number of non-party deputies, currently at fifteen per cent of the present legislature.

Each approved candidate must meet eleven requirements, including meeting political, ethical and legal standards. Candidates must also 'demonstrate their absolute allegiance to the country and its constitution.'

After Vietnam's 19 May elections, the new deputies will gather to elect a new government. Several changes in Cabinet can be expected. Prime Minister Phan Van Khai is expected to retire. There are two likely contenders for this position: Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Truong Tan Sang (Chairman of the Central Economic Commission and former Ho Chi Minh City party boss). Two individuals are tipped to join the ranks of four deputy prime minsters: Vu Khoan (presently Minister of Trade) and Le Huy Ngo (Minister of Agriculture). At least three ministers are expected to be replaced: Tran Xuan Gia (Planning and Investment), Nguyen Dy Nien (Foreign Affairs) and Dang Vu Chu (Industry).

WATCHPOINT: Expect a Cabinet reshuffle following Vietnam's 19 May elections and renewed emphasis on increasing the pace of economic and political reforms.


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