More self-nominated candidates, including those not associated with the Vietnamese Communist Party, are expected to run for seats in the upcoming parliamentary elections than in past elections, despite control of the candidate selection process by the ruling Communist Party.
Some non-party candidates said they have nominated themselves because they want to exercise their rights and test the truthfulness of a remark by party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong at the end of the 12th Party Congress in late January that Vietnam’s elections are democratic.
So far, more than 20 non-party candidates have nominated themselves for seats in the National Parliament, a number that is expected to increase between now and the application deadline on March 13, according to Vietnamese social media sites.
Nguyen Quang A, former director of the now-defunct Institute of Development Studies (IDS) think tank and a well-known activist in Vietnam, was the first self-nominated candidate to announce his candidacy for the upcoming 14th National Assembly.
He told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that he was running to exercise his rights because the country’s law stipulates that its citizens have many rights.
“The Vietnamese constitution states that citizens can participate in governing the country,” he said. “The law on National Assembly elections also states that any citizen 21 years old and over is eligible to run for a seat. I want to promote an awareness campaign among people so the young people understand their rights.”
The National Assembly Standing Committee, which convenes and chairs parliamentary sessions, expects that of the 500 parliamentary delegates, there could be as a many as 35 non-party members in the 14th National Assembly.
It also expects the number of delegates from the central government to be 198, an increase of 15 compared to those in the current parliament, while the number of representatives from local governments to be 302.
Some political experts argue that if Vietnam’s political regime was more open, the role of the National Assembly could be improved with the inclusion of more independent voices from delegates who are self-nominated, non-party members.
But whether the ruling Communist Party will become more open toward the latest wave of self-nominated candidates is another matter.
“This is a test, a very interesting test that will let us see how those self-nominated candidates will be treated and how equal footing will be applied,” said economist Le Dang Doanh, who is also a member of the United Nations Committee for Development Policy. “I think this is a test that we will witness to see how constitutional rights are exercised.”
Checks and balances
A report on Vietnam by the year 2035 issued last week by the World Bank and Vietnamese government stressed the importance of strengthening state accountability by ensuring checks and balances between the three branches of government and creating opportunities for citizen feedback on public service delivery, to ensure the country’s continued economic development.
Although it was silent on the issue of independent candidates, the World Bank noted that no checks-and-balance system exists among the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government because of one-party rule.
The elections for the13th National Assembly for the 2011-2016 term included 83 self-nominated candidates. But after the first round of consultations, only 15 were placed on the official list, of which four were elected deputies.
The number of delegates who were not party members was 42, among whom just a few were self-nominated, while the rest had been nominated by the party.
In the past many self-nominated candidates have been ill-treated and had their names crossed off candidate lists before elections took place, Quang A said.
Nevertheless, he believes that the situation has changed because awareness among citizens, and especially young people, has grown.
Lu Van Que, a representative of the Vietnamese Fatherland Front, told Tuoi Tre Online that the number of non-party members who are delegates to the current National Assembly is too low, and suggested increasing it to 100.
He said the National Assembly was not an expanded party conference, and that many independent candidates are talented. At present, the country has about 4.5 million party members.
The first consultative meeting on the number of candidates nominated by central agencies for the 14th National Assembly election was held in Hanoi on Feb. 16, according to a Voice of Vietnam report.
The results of the meeting were sent to the National Electoral Council and National Assembly Standing Committee.
Now the official nomination of candidates by central agencies is being carried out until March 10.
The Nation Assembly elections will take place on May 22. Delegates, who will serve from 2016 to 2021, will select the next government.