The politics of protest in Vietnam Gatecrashers - By running for parliament, political outsiders challenge one-party rule
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”.
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