The Communist Party-controlled government of Vietnam has ruled under four state constitutions. The first was promulgated in 1946, the second in 1960, the third in 1980, and the fourth in 1992.
The 1946 constitution of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV), adopted shortly before the war with the French, was never fully implemented because of wartime conditions. On 1 January 1960, a new constitution was promulgated, instituting a largely presidential system to capitalize on Ho Chi Minh's considerable prestige. In the Republic of Vietnam (RVN), formerly South Vietnam, two constitutions were promulgated. The first, by the regime of Ngo Dinh Diem was introduced in 1956. The second was put forth when Nguyen Van Thieu was elected president in 1967. Like the DRV constitution, it created a modified presidential system, with a cabinet responsible to the legislative branch. Following the fall of the RVN in 1975, the north moved quickly toward national reunification. A nationwide National Assembly was elected in April 1976, and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was proclaimed in early July. In December 1980, the SRV adopted a new constitution for the entire country. The new charter, more doctrinaire than its predecessors, described Vietnam as a "proletarian dictatorship" led by the Communist Party, and called for an early transition to full Socialist ownership. The highest state authority was the National Assembly. Members were elected for five-year terms by universal adult suffrage at age 18. The Assembly appointed the Council of Ministers (a cabinet of 33 ministers), the chairman of which ranked as premier. The Council of State (12 members in 1987) served as the collective presidency of Vietnam, elected by the National Assembly from among its own members and accountable to it.
In 1992 a new constitution was adopted by the National Assembly. Like the 1980 constitution it affirmed the central role of the Communist Party, stipulating that the party must be subject to the law. In support of a free-market economy, constitutional protection of foreign investment was guaranteed. However, land remained the property of the state, with individuals or enterprises entitled to the right to long-term leases that can be inherited or sold. The newly created position of president replaced the Council of State; the president has the right to appoint a prime minister subject to the approval of the National Assembly. The National Assembly, with a maximum of 400 members, retained legislative power. Members are elected to five-year terms by universal adult suffrage. As of 2002, there were 498 members of the National Assembly.