Monday, April 26, 2004

Vietnam: independent candidates without independent thoughts 

"Elections for People's Councils, the equivalent of town councils and state legislatures, will be held throughout Vietnam today, and they will be no rubber-stamp charades. A law passed in November mandates that in every voting district, there must be at least two more candidates than there are seats."

Sounds good? Well, maybe. Maybe not. While less than 60% of the candidates are said to be members of the Communist Party, most of them are nominated by state-affiliated organisation (are there any other types in Vietnam?) and have to go through a rather strenuous vetting process:

"Candidates are evaluated by a patriotic organization called the Fatherland Front. By law, they must be 'loyal to the socialist Vietnamese fatherland' and possess 'good moral qualities.' In three review meetings before the elections, testimony is gathered from candidates' co-workers and neighbors. This process can weed out corruption but also ideological deviance."

Sounds like a great way to encourage non-conformity and breath democratic spirit into the Vietnamese polity, doesn't it? Not that it matters anyway, because "[i]t is not clear how much power the People's Councils exercise. Power at the regional and local levels rests mainly with the executive branch, known as the People's Committees." And ultimately, of course, the Communist Party of Vietnam.

Why do they even bother pretending?


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