Doubts Raised Over Vietnamese Leadership Confidence Vote

2014-11-17
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(R to L) Vietnam's President Truong Tan Sang, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Communist Party Secretary General Nguyen Phu Trong and Nguyen Sinh Hung, president of the National Assembly, cast their ballots during a confidence vote at the National Assembly in Hanoi, Nov. 15, 2014.
(R to L) Vietnam's President Truong Tan Sang, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Communist Party Secretary General Nguyen Phu Trong and Nguyen Sinh Hung, president of the National Assembly, cast their ballots during a confidence vote at the National Assembly in Hanoi, Nov. 15, 2014.
AFP

Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and President Truong Tan Sang won high levels of support from parliamentarians in a confidence poll taken at the weekend, though bloggers and rights activists voiced doubts over the value of the survey, saying the country must move beyond one-party rule to effect real change.

Dung received a “high confidence” vote of 64.4 percent in Saturday’s vote in the National Assembly, while another 19.3 percent of MPs cast votes showing “confidence” and 13.7 percent “low confidence” in his performance.

Sang meanwhile garnered “high confidence” votes from 76.5 percent of the 485 MPs voting, and a “confidence” vote of 17 percent, with scores for both men showing improvement over votes taken in a confidence poll last year, the country’s first under communist rule.

However, no option was allowed for votes of “no confidence” that could be seen as challenging control by Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party, sources said.

“The party controls everything, including the National Assembly itself,” former jailed petitioner Le Thi Kim Thu said, speaking to RFA’s Vietnamese Service in an interview.

“The party chooses [parliamentary] candidates for whom the people can vote,” Thu said, adding, “Only when the people are also able to select the candidates for whom they vote will those candidates really work for the people.”

“I no longer believe in them, and stopped voting [for Assembly candidates] in 2006,” said Thu, who was once jailed for protesting a land grab by local authorities.

“The National Assembly is elected by the people, but they don’t do anything for the people,” she said. “They have meetings twice a year, but can’t solve any problems.”

“The Communist Party needs to be changed,” she said.

Party congress

The vote was held about a year before leadership elections during the Communist Party’s five-yearly congress.

"This year's confidence vote takes place amid the heavy hand-wrangling among Vietnam's top echelons ahead of the next party congress ... as such, the outcomes will shed some light on the current state of factional politics," Phuong Nguyen, a research associate at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Reuters news agency.

Dung is believed to have gained some leverage for pushing stronger U.S. ties and his defiance of China during a recent row over territorial  claims in the South China Sea, reports said.

Some believe the vote is not crucially important to the general public, though.

“I don’t care about this confidence vote. I don’t think it is important,” added Nguyen Dinh Cong, a professor at Hanoi’s National University of Civil Engineering, also speaking to RFA.

“Marxism-Leninism is wrong, but do they dare to change?,” he asked, referring to the country’s leaders. “Do they dare to put the interests of the people first as a priority?”

Many Vietnamese meanwhile look for change only in their material circumstances and “are not inspired to fight for a more civilized society or democracy,” independent blogger and journalist Pham Thanh said.

“Most of them just seek a ‘material’ life and don’t understand much about their rights,” he said.

“There will have to be more severe infighting among government leaders, and interest groups will have to be more sharply divided, before we see real change,” Thanh said.

More attention must be paid now to Vietnam’s economic crisis, “which has led to worsened living conditions for workers and poor farmers,” Thanh said.

“If we are not forced into a corner, we will never rise up.”

Saturday’s confidence vote itself will lead nowhere, though, Thanh said. “I am fed up with this because nothing changes. They never change.”

Reported by An Nguyen for RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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