When it comes to government and politics, Vietnam has a lot of both.
The Socialist Republic of Vietnam ( SRV: Cong Hoa Xa Hoi Chu Nghia Vietnam) came into existence in July1976 as a unitary state comprising the Democratic Republic of Vietnam ( DRV: North vietnam and the defeated Republic of Vietnam until the declaration of the SRV, The South had beed ruled at least in name- by Provisional Revolutionary Goverment.
Officially, the government espouses a Marxist Leninist political philosophy. Its political institutions have borrowed a great deal from the Sovi’et and Chinese models, in particular the ability to create mointains of red tape. Relatively speaking, the policies of the Vietnames Communist party have been characterised by a flexible, nondoctrinaire approach.
The national slogan, which appears at the top of every official document, is “Doc Lap, Tu Do, Hanh phuc”, based on one of Ho Chi Minh’s sayings “ independence, freedom, happiness”.
Vietnam’s political system is dominated by the two million member communist Party ( Dang Cong San Vietnam), whose onfluence is felt at every level of the country’s social and political life.
The leadership of the Communist Party has been collective in style and structure ever since its founding by Ho Chi Minh in 1930. The Party’s decentralised structure, though originally necessitated by the difficulty of communications between its headquarters and its branches, has allowed local leaders a considerable amoint of leeway for initiative. Unfortunately, this has also allowed the development of localised corruption, which Hanoi has had difficulty controlling.
The Official media has described a number of cases. In Thanh Hoa Province, local party chief Ha Trong Hoa turned his police force into a band of Mafia style gangsters and ruled for years before Hanoi finally stepped in and ousted him. Pham Chi Tin, the Son of a high ranking Communist Party official, was arrested by the military in 1945 after his gang ( the Nha Trang police force) terrorised local residents for years. Hanoi took action after he kindnapped a tourist from Hong Kong to extort moneyfrom the victim’s family. There was a similar crackdown in VUng Tau recently.’s day
The most powerful institution in the party is the Politburo, which has about a dozen members. It oversees the party day to day functioning and has the power to issue directives to the government. The Politburo is formally elected by the Central Committee, whose 125 or so full members and about 50 alternate members meet only once or twice a year.
Party Congresses, at which major policy changes are atified after a long process of behind the scenes disccussions and consultation, were held in 1935, 1951, 1960,1976, 1982, 1991, 1996 and 1997. The last few Party Congresse have reflected intense intra party disagreements over the Path Vietnamese communism shold take, with changing coalitions of conservatives and dogmatists squaring off against the more pragmatic elements. The position of party Chairman has been left vacant since Ho Chi Minh’s Death in 1969.
Vietnam’s unicameral National Assembly ( Quoc Hoi ) is the highest legislative authority in the country. It;s 500 or so deputies, whose terms last five years, each respresent around 100,000 voters. The function of the National Assembly is basically to rubber stamp, in most cases unanimously, Politburo decisions and party initiated legislation during its bianual sessions. which last about a week.
The Council of State functions as the country;s collective presidency. Its members(who numbered 15 at the time of writing) are elected by the National Assembly. The Council of State caries out the duties of the National Assembly when the latter is not in session. THe Council of Ministers is another elected by the National Assembly. Its functions are similar to a Western style cabinet.
During the 1980s and early ‘90s thousands of party member were expelled to reduce corruption ( deen by a fed up public as endemic) and to make room for more young people and workers. As in China, Vietnam has been ruled by a gerontocracy. Few high ranking officials ever retire – they just fade away.
There are 25 official governmant ministries serving under the command of the men in the Council of Ministers. Despite official rhetoric about the equality of women, females are under represented in the part, especially at the highest levels ( there have been no female members of the politburo since 1945)
Candidates of the National Assembly and local People’s Committees are elected to office. Everyone of voting age (18 years) is required to vote, though proxy- voting is allowed ( and is very common). This permits the government o boast that elections produce 100% voter participation, thus conferring legitimacy on the process. only party approved candidates are permitted to run and opposition parties are prohibited. Some independents have appeared on the slate, but they must also have the government’s approval to run.
Theoretically, the military does not seem to have any direct political role, but virtually all Vietnam’s high ranking politicians and officials came from the military.
The government seems to have a hard time deciding how to carve the political turkey. After reunification, the provincial structure of the South was completely re-organised. Then on 1 suly 1989, several provinces that were joined after 1975 were separated. SAine then there have been even more splits; the last one was on 1996 when eight new provinces were created, bringing the total to 61. Even the Vietnames have difficulty keeping up with the redrawing of political boundaries.
Vietnam became a member of Association of Southeast Asian Nations ( asean) in july 1995 and in November of the same year the US president, Bill Clinton, Officially announced that US Vietnames relations were “ Normalised”
In March 2002, the national Assembly convened for the final session of its five year term , while elections in May 2002 ushered in a new assembly and cabinet.