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Vietnam Votes in Parliamentary Election

Voters in Vietnam went to the polls Sunday to choose a new National Assembly in single-party elections. The lawmaking body has long been in the shadow of the Communist Party, but lately has moved toward greater independence. Patriotic music blared through loudspeakers while propaganda posters on the street urged Vietnamese to vote in the National Assembly elections. The polls, which will choose a new 498-seat parliament, are being held on the birthday of the late independence hero, Ho Chi Minh.

Results are not expected for at least a week, but the outcome is in no doubt. One of the last communist states, Vietnam bans opposition parties under threat of stiff jail terms.

Most major decisions in Vietnam are made by the Communist Party's powerful Central Committee. But in the past decade, the National Assembly has started to assert itself, holding open debate that is often televised.

Communist Party chairman Nong Duc Manh, who was president of the National Assembly for nine years, cast his ballot first at a central Hanoi polling station. He called on all lawmakers to be "servants of the people," saying there is no place in parliament for "mandarins" seeking to enrich themselves.

Vietnam has been embroiled in a major corruption case involving a criminal network that has so far ensnared nearly 60 police and officials. A senior Communist lawmaker had his name struck from the candidates' list last week, after reports he helped reputed crime lord Nam Cam bribe his way out of a prison term.

One of the first tasks the new National Assembly will have when it convenes in July is to approve a new cabinet of ministers already picked by the Communist Party. The lawmakers also will oversee progress of last year's landmark trade agreement with the United States and debate an economic reform package.