Thursday, March 17, 2016
The politics of protest in Vietnam Gatecrashers - By running for parliament, political outsiders challenge one-party rule
ONE of Vietnam’s political gadflies, Nguyen Quang A, posted a letter this week to the chairman of Vietnam’s National Assembly. Mr Quang A wrote that he had collected 5,000 signatures from among the public, including from famous writers, senior Communist Party officials and a retired general, and that he was now putting himself forward as a candidate for the rubber-stamp parliament. The odds of his bid succeeding, Mr Quang A acknowledges, are “nearly zero”. The assembly has a candidate-vetting process known as the “five gates” to keep out undesirables like him who “self-nominate”. Still, he is happy that his protest candidacy is a rare challenge to the party.
Vietnam’s constitution pays lip service to democratic principles, but the country of 93m people is a repressive one-party state. In it, ordinary folk have little say over who their leaders are. Almost every top official in Vietnam is a Communist Party member. Since 2002 a few hundred Vietnamese have nominated themselves for the National Assembly, but only seven have been successful—and nearly all of those had deep ties to the party powerful in politics or business. Nguyen Dinh Cong, a retired university lecturer who quit the party last month in disgust over its jailing of dissidents, its stuffy Marxism-Leninism and its refusal to allow multi-party elections, says that polls in Vietnam are “just for show”.