Vietnam - Political parties

The government of the SRV is a de facto one-party state ruled by the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP). The Vietnamese Communist Party is the political successor to the Indochinese Communist Party, created in 1930 and formally dissolved in 1945. From 1945 until 1951, the party operated in clandestine fashion, until it emerged once more as the Vietnamese Workers' Party at the Second National Congress in 1951. The party assumed its current name in 1976, shortly after the unification of the country into the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

The Communist Party is administered through an assembly of national delegates. National party conventions elect a Central Committee to guide party affairs between sessions of the national convention. The Central Committee in turn elects the Politburo, the highest policy making body, and a secretariat to direct day-today party operations.

The Fatherland Front is the linear successor of the Viet-Minh Front, formed in 1941 to provide the Communist Party with a broad organization to unify all elements in Vietnam against the French colonial regime. The Fatherland Front was formed in North Vietnam in 1955 as a device to mobilize the population to support the regime's goals. A similar organization, the National Liberation Front (NLF), was established in South Vietnam in 1960 by Nguyen Huu Tho to provide a political force in favor of national reunification. After the fall of the RVN in 1975, the NLF was merged into the Fatherland Front.

Under the RVN government, development of a political party system in the Western sense never passed the rudimentary stage. President Thieu, who headed the People's Alliance for Social Revolution, tried to consolidate anti-Communist political organizations in the RVN through a multiparty National Social Democratic Front, but formal political organizations were weak and plagued with religious and regional sectarianism. Wartime conditions and the lack of a national tradition of political pluralism were additional factors preventing the rise of a multiparty system. All such parties were abolished after the fall of Saigon in 1975.

In the SRV, elections for national and local office are controlled by the Communist Party and the state. In the July 1992 general elections 601 candidates contested 395 National Assembly seats. For the first time independent candidates—not Communist Party members or endorsed by organizations affiliated with the Party—were permitted to contest seats, although they did require Party approval in order to present themselves. Two candidates qualified, but neither was elected. In 1996, the Communist Party held its eighth congress, at which it was widely expected a new generation of leaders would be inaugurated; but, again the aging hard-line leaders were given another five-year term in office as the country struggled with the consequences of 12 years of economic reform and increased international openness. In 1998's national elections, the first three "self-nominated" candidates (not proposed by the Party or the Fatherland Front) managed to gain seats in the 450-member National Assembly. Women held 26% of seats in the National Assembly as of May 2000, but have not yet risen to the top echelons of the Party. At the ninth party congress held in April 2001, National Assembly chariman Nong Duc Manh was chosen as general secretary, which was seen as a step toward reform. In the 19 May 2002 elections for the 498-member National Assembly, some independents competed for seats, although the Fatherland Front was responsible for approving them. No opposition parties contested the vote. The Communist Party took 90% of the vote (447 seats): the other 10% (51 seats) was won by candidates who are not Party members but were approved by the Party.

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