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Vietnam To Hold General Elections On May 23 – Analysis

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The upcoming election of deputies to the 15th National Assembly and People’s Councils of all levels for the 2021-26 tenure slated for 23 May is an important political event in Vietnam. The General Secretary of the National Assembly and Chairman of the National Assembly office Bui Van Cuong highlighted three major aspects of the forthcoming elections. Preparations were in full swing a month ahead of the important event. Three rounds of consultations were completed and official list of people eligible and qualified to run for seats at the NA and the People’s Council were discussed. The National Election Council (NEC) submitted the list of candidates nominated by the central agencies to their respective localities so that the provincial election committee could post the list of candidates in each constituency. Adequate preparations were also in place so that the elections were held legally, democratically, economically and safely.      

 After the details are discussed by the NA in accordance with the principles of democratic centralism, the NEC with the experience of conducting a total of five plenary sessions is tasked with overseeing the whole process so that any glitches or loopholes are plugged. Among the three notable highlights are: early preparations, adopting new regulations in line with the Law on the Organisation of the NA (revised in 2020) and the Law on the Organisation of Local Administration (revised in 2019), and maintaining the required Covid-19 protocols. In an unusual situation, for the first time health protocols were integrated into security preparations.  

The beauty of the election process in Vietnam is that unlike in democracies where one often sees lawlessness in abundance during election times, it is organised in very professional manner and conducted without any blemish. Vietnamese people willingly cooperate with the organisers without any raucous. This is not to say that the complicated and unexpected developments of the Covid-19 pandemic did not pose some impacts on the preparations for the event on 23 May. It was therefore to ensure the success of the election of the election and minimise impacts from the pandemic, the NEC issued a number of documents directing and guiding the election activities in the context of the pandemic, including those instructing the making of voter lists and voting methods for voters undertaking quarantine in localities affected by Covid-19.

An interesting arrangement made in Vietnam that unlike in India, officers and soldiers serving on DK1/8 marine platform exercised their rights and responsibilities as citizens on 12 May by casting an early ballot in the election of deputies to the NA and all-level People’s Councils in Ba Ria-Vung Tau province for the 2021-26 tenure. 

Vietnam has to its credit 35 years of development process and its achievements in economy, foreign policy and defence/security domains inject a sense of confidence to cope with the current difficulties and challenges triggered by external factors. In the light of this, sound election preparation is a further extension of peoples’ aspirations to scale new heights in the development process. 

For the forthcoming elections, the credentials of the candidates have been evaluated and those found to be deserving delegates are put in the fray. This is also an affirmation of Vietnam’s achievements under the leadership of the Communist Party in all fields, especially economy and epidemic prevention. In the foreign policy domain, the party has demonstrated an independent stance, which has enabled the government to achieve outstandingly in many bilateral as well as regional issues, thereby enhancing the country’s standing before the global community. The government has also responded remarkably well in containing the coronavirus in the initial phase of its outbreak, presenting itself as a model state for others to emulate and has also remained proactive when the second wave hit the country. The lessons that can be learnt from Vietnam’s experience since 1946 in terms of holding elections when due in a democratic manner and with full transparency is to be admired.      

After over 35 years of “Doi Moi” (renewal), Vietnam has gained great achievements. However, the country is facing big challenges, including the aging population, exhausted natural resources, climate change and non-traditional security issues. The Government stresses three key pillars for the country’s development – people, including their brainpower and values, value of nature and natural resources, and national historical and cultural values. It also stresses the need to promote the national great solidarity bloc for national development.

On the development of the Mekong Delta region, it may be noted that the 20-million-strong region has yet to fully tap its potential, advantages and competitiveness edge. Regarding transport infrastructure, it is necessary to focus on studying and re-planning the transportation system of the Mekong Delta region, and outline solutions and mechanisms for developing inland waterways, seaports, roads, expressways and airports in the region.

Local authorities need to uphold the spirit of self-reliance, join hands with the Government to further promote socio-economic development in the Mekong Delta, effectively perform the Government’s Resolution on sustainable development of the Mekong Delta to adapt to climate change, and the Politburo’s Resolution on building and developing Can Tho city to 2030, with a vision to 2045.

The Government leader also discussed COVID-19 prevention and control efforts with local voters, noting that it is essential to oppose tendencies of being distracted, panic, and extreme in the fight against the pandemic. The entire people, including voters in the Mekong Delta region, are urged to voluntarily and strictly follow regulations on COVID-19 prevention and control.

If the forthcoming elections in Vietnam are to be seen in the context of parliamentary connections between India and Vietnam, it is a step in the right direction. In the past, then Speaker of Lok Sabha Sumitra Mahajan and visiting NA Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan agreed on the need to enhance parliamentary relations during their talks at the Indian parliament’s headquarters in New Delhi on 9 December 2016. Earlier, Sumitra Mahajan undertook a visit to Vietnam in March/April 2015 for the 132nd Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Bilateral visits at the level of parliamentary members have been going on and after the election process is over, such cooperation is likely to be strengthened further. Both sides agree that enhancement can be made through increasing exchanges in lawmaking and between parliamentary friendship groups and parliament agencies. 

The manner in which elections are held in Vietnam, India has something to learn from it. With organisations set up in localities to conduct voting, to 63 committees to the provincial level, 682 others at the district level, and 10,134 at the communal level, the process is clearly streamlined. There are as many as 84,767 election groups and 69,198,594 voters across the country and the discipline with which they conduct themselves is praiseworthy.    

There is a lot that India and Vietnam share in common. The traditional friendship between the two countries dates back to centuries and has remained robust till the present time. India has always attached importance to its relations with ASEAN member nations and the government is pushing forward with its Act East policy, in which Vietnam is an important pillar. Both share common viewpoints that peace between countries and the region is sine qua non for world peace so that international disputes, including the East Sea issue, can be settled by peaceful means on the basis of the UN Charter and international law. India does recognise that the East Sea is a core interest of Vietnam and has always stood by Vietnam.

Both have demonstrated mutual respect on a host of regional issues on which they share common viewpoints. As regards Vietnam, it unequivocally supports India’s Act East policy and increasing presence in and connectivity with Southeast Asia and backs India in a bid to win a deserving position in the global arena. The latest challenge that both India and Vietnam face now is to strategise a common path to defeat the surging covid-19 that has devastated the humanity world-over.

With the regular parliamentary exchanges in place, there shall be greater bonhomie between the National Assembly of Vietnam and the Parliament of India, in which India posits the interests of the people at its core. This understanding and Indian strategy shall contribute to the peace and stability in the region. The importance of the forthcoming elections needs to be evaluated from this larger perspective.  

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Dr. Rajaram Panda

Dr. Rajaram Panda, Senior Fellow at Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, a think tank under the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, Former ICCR India Chair Professor, Reitaku University, Japan, and former Senior Fellow, IDSA, New Delhi E-mail: [email protected]

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