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Vietnam Lawmaker Calls for Legislative Referenda

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung at opening ceremony of the autumn session of Vietnam's National Assembly, Hanoi, Oct. 21, 2013.
A member of Vietnam’s National Assembly has urged the body to consider a law on holding referendums on proposed legislation.

Lawmaker and historian Duong Trung Quoc says ordinary citizens should be given a chance to raise their voices about important decisions in the country.

“I have already spoken before the Assembly that it should put into practice one of the contents mentioned in the first constitution in 1946 about a law on referendum so that people can express their views and we can know what is going on," he said. "Now the pro-constitution camp says all the people agreed with the revised charter, but the other side said a majority of citizens are against it.”

Quoc was one of two legislators who did not vote last week on the newly revised constitution, saying says he was not satisfied with some of its contents, especially the Communist Party's reaffirmation of its central role the nation's economy and politics.

Economist Nguyen Quang A was among dozens of intellectuals who petitioned the National Assembly chairman with requests for more freedoms along with a change in the Communist Party's role. He says many young people have been supportive of the petition and engaged heated political debates, which, in his opinion, are vital to Vietnam’s long-term democratic development.

“Our main goal was to raise the awareness among the public about what was going on with the constitution as well as engaging the youth in constitutional and legal discussions," he said. "That process was ignited and has achieved results beyond our expectation.”

The revised charter goes into effect January 1, 2014.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese service.