News / Asia

    Political Rivalry May Change Leadership in One-Party Vietnam

    Politburo member Truong Tan Sang, right, reads a document while Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung looks on at the opening ceremony of the 11th National Congress of the Vietnamese Communist Party in Hanoi, Vietnam on January 12, 2011
    Politburo member Truong Tan Sang, right, reads a document while Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung looks on at the opening ceremony of the 11th National Congress of the Vietnamese Communist Party in Hanoi, Vietnam on January 12, 2011
    Marianne Brown

    Vietnam's National Assembly held an election for its top leaders this week, which some observers have said could provide a shift forward for a political system long considered mostly ceremonial.

    The country's main lawmaking body, the National Assembly voted in two political rivals for the top two positions. One of them, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, was re-elected for a second five-year term. A day earlier, his rival Truong Tan Sang, second-in-command of the communist party was elected president.

    Some observers say that while the new leadership is unlikely to herald a revolution in the one-party state's political system, the rivalry between the two men could nevertheless mark important changes.    

    On the surface, the competition for leadership in communist Vietnam is very muted.  There was only one candidate each for the top jobs.

    Hoang Tu Duy, who is a member of the banned pro-democracy group Viet Tan, says that although the elections are largely a farce, the government has to hold them to have legitimacy.

    "The interesting thing is the regime has to put on this farce because it has to put on this appearance of a normal government operating under laws with elected officials and they are doing this because they have to work with the outside world with investors but also to some extent to a domestic audience," said Duy.  

    Duy adds that the differences between the reality of Vietnamese politics and its public face is putting pressure on the National Assembly to start behaving as the highest organ of the people, which is how it is described in the constitution.

    Martin Gainsborough from the University of Bristol says it is unrealistic to impose liberal values on the election process. Gainsborough says those who hold office are seen as talented people from good families with good backgrounds and they do not need to prove themselves in the eyes of the public.

    "Parliament can be seen in that same way, that it's a formal confirmation of the merits of these people, not a competitive electoral contest where may the best candidate win," Gainsborough noted.

    As inflation hits 22 percent year-on-year and the international community continues to be dismayed by Vietnam's dismal human rights record, the politicians certainly have their work cut out for them over the next five years.

    In his first term as prime minister, Dung, 61, faced a no-confidence vote in the National Assembly about the collapse of ship-building firm Vinashin, which last year defaulted on debts of $4.5 billion. He was also sued by human rights lawyer Cu Huy Ha Vu about controversial Chinese-run bauxite mines in the Central Highlands

    Nevertheless, Dung is a resourceful leader, says Ernest Bower, U.S. chair of the Advisory Council on Competitiveness for the Vietnamese Prime Minister.

    "I think he has a certain charisma," Bower explained.  "He has been pretty careful about trying to guide economic reform within a system where such an approach does cause suspicion among political rivals so I think he has had measured success in that effort."

    In run-up to the Party Congress, which determines the top jobs, Truong Tan Sang made a bid to take Dung's job, but failed.  Despite this, says Gower says he does not believe it will cause tension because they have worked together in the past.

    Duy disagrees. He says differences could lead to more debate in the National Assembly. He points to the example of the assembly's rejection of a $56 billion high-speed train from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City because of its cost.

    "I think the spirited debate we will see in the National Assembly is going to come from a number of reasons. One of the reasons is differences in the politburo spilling into the National Assembly, for instance in the case of the bullet train," Duy added.

    Duy says the assembly only blocked the proposal because the politburo was not able to come to decision about the train.  Competition between the top leaders will mean these kinds of debates will continue into the future.

    Gainsborough says that, although the two men may have differing views on major issues, that is unlikely to forge a dramatic change in policy-making.  As an example, he points to negotiations with China about competing territorial claims in the South China Sea.

    There would be no "fork in the road" for Vietnam over the dispute, Gainsborough says, even though the government has received criticism for its handling of the issue from several high profile public figures.

    "Different personalities can bring different things to the table in terms of nuance, but in broad terms Vietnam does not want to have a bad, antagonistic relationship with China, this huge country on its doorstep, but obviously it does want to find ways to hold its own," Gainsborough noted.

    Gainsborough says 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 yourself in order to make money through a variety of means," Gainsborough added.  "That explains so much of what goes on in Vietnam. Public offices are routes for private advancement that is how people view public office. It doesn't mean people are flagrantly fleecing the system, but there is a close connection between holding public office and private gain."

    Whether relations between the two men worsen in the coming months, analysts say their rivalry is unlikely to revolutionize the face of Vietnamese politics. They say what is more likely to drive substantive political changes is public pressure to reform an ailing economic system that threatens to put more people into poverty.

    You May Like

    US Internet Giants, EU Reach Deal to Combat Online Hate Speech

    Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft commit to ‘quickly and efficiently’ act to clamp down on use of social media to incite violence, terror

    Video Tunisia’s Ennahda Party Begins a New Political Chapter

    Party now moves to separate its political and religious activities; change described by party members as pragmatic response to political and economic challenges facing Tunisia today

    Virtual Reality Fine-tuned at Asia Tech Show

    Microchip designers hope to improve resolution for users of systems that can turn your bedroom into the ocean floor

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conferencei
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    May 30, 2016 5:11 PM
    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora