“Between trust and structure: citizen participation and local elections in Viet Nam”


As human and economic development in Viet Nam has increased over the nearly three decades of Đổi mới (‘Renewal’), people’s expectations of governance are also changing. Viet Nam’s Constitution and political structure offer opportunities for citizens to participate in governance both directly (through in-person engagement at the local level) and indirectly (through voting for People’s Council and National Assembly delegates).
These forms of participation can be summarised in the two familiar slogans of ‘People know, people discuss, people do, and people monitor’, and ‘Government of the people, by the people, and for the people’. Yet the implementation of legal rights to participation often lags behind the letter of the law. How can citizens be more actively involved in public decision making?
This research report is the result of collaboration between the international non-governmental organisation, Oxfam and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to examine and analyse citizen participation in policy-making processes and political life.
It forms part of a series of UNDP-commissioned studies on Viet Nam’s governance and public administration performance conceived on the basis of the wealth of data and information provided by the Viet Nam Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index (PAPI).
The report employs an innovative combination of quantitative and qualitative analysis to compare citizen participation at the national level with indepth conditions in local communities.
Research into citizen participation in governance and public administration issues is of particular importance at this time considering that in 2016, the Communist Party of Viet Nam will hold its five-year Congress and elections will be held for a new National Assembly for the period 2016-2021.
With these upcoming events in mind, the report provides insights into people’s understanding and perceptions of local governance and suggests potential policy responses to address matters of concern surrounding direct and indirect participation.
Vietnamese citizens participate in a wide array of mass organisations and informal social groups at the grassroots level. PAPI survey data indicates that associational membership may be increasing nationwide over the last several years.
Qualitative research results offer a more nuanced picture, in which membership is strong in some locations and among some citizens whilst remaining weaker for others. Participation in associations, however, does not necessarily equate to active involvement in socio-economic development, such as land use, development planning, or budget monitoring.
Meanwhile, citizen monitoring of local government performance through vertical accountability structures forms the lowest performing area of direct participation, with People’s Inspection Boards (PIBs) and Community Investment Supervision Boards (CISBs) often not functioning as designed. Regardless, each of the research locations visited exemplified certain positive governance practices to be recognised and highlighted.
Regarding elections, the report notes discrepancies between the very high nationally reported turnout and PAPI data on election participation.
Constitutional guarantees of election quality are realised in National Assembly and People’s Council elections more than in village head elections, and more consistently in some locations than others.
Beyond analysing the current situation of participation in political life, the research team asked both individual and focus group respondents their views on a set of potential electoral reforms that are either already piloted or proposed in Viet Nam.
All ideas were supported by at least some respondents, though levels of acceptance varied widely among both citizens and local officials. The reforms with the highest overall support were a change in election procedures to guarantee ‘one person, one vote’ and a restriction on the number of dual appointments between government and elected bodies.
In conclusion, qualitative research on direct and indirect participation in local governance, combined with analysis of PAPI data, reveals a number of specific ways in which implementation of citizens’ constitutional rights, laws and policies on grassroots democracy and elections can be promoted within the present Vietnamese political system.
Efforts to promote substantive participation are already being made through pilot and experimental programmes of the Vietnamese government, donors, and international and domestic NGOs. These programmes should be expanded and promoted with cooperation of local authorities and mass organisations, particularly the Fatherland Front./.
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All comments [ 15 ]

John Smith 26/10/15 08:33

In 2016, Vietnamese citizens will elect new representatives to the National Assembly and to People’s Councils at provincial, district, and commune levels. Held once every five years, national elections are one of the key ways that men and women participate in politics.

Gentle Moon 26/10/15 08:33

Local authorities and the Vietnam Fatherland Front, who are tasked with organizing elections, must ensure that Constitutional and legal provisions are followed.

LawrenceSamuels 26/10/15 08:34

As human and economic development in Vietnam has increased over the nearly three decades of đổi mới, people’s expectations of governance are also changing. In addition to national elections, citizens take part in political life through direct decision-making in villages and communes, and through elections of village heads.

Jane smartnic 26/10/15 08:35

Direct and representative forms of participation can be summarized in two popular slogans: “People know, people discuss, people do, and people monitor”, and “Government of the people, by the people, and for the people”.

yobro yobro 26/10/15 08:36

Vietnamese citizens participate in a wide array of mass organizations and informal social groups at the grassroots level.

Love Peace 26/10/15 08:37

Vietnamese citizens also have opportunities to contribute directly to local decisions about socio-economic development, such as land use, development planning, and budget monitoring.

MaskOf Zero 26/10/15 08:37

Other citizens and local officials stated that participation in village and commune meetings was often superficial and occurred only after key decisions had been made.

Only Solidar 26/10/15 08:38

Citizens and local officials stated that proxy voting is more common in some locations than others. Some believed it was acceptable, while others thought the practice should be ended.

Pack Cassiopian 26/10/15 08:39

For voters, education level and trust or confidence, rather than policy positions, are the most important characteristics in choosing elected representatives.

Deck Hero14 26/10/15 08:40

To increase representativeness, elected bodies could include a higher percentage of women and ethnic minority delegates, or specify that delegates must reside in the constituency they serve.

Williams Melanie 28/10/15 06:23

the Vietnamese people have increasingly attended in all fields and activities of the Party and State

Jack Walker 28/10/15 06:26

The CPV are organizing to collect the feedbacks of the citizen to the draft congress document of the Party

Davis Caroline 28/10/15 06:29

it shows more democracy in Vietnam. the Vietnamese authority attaches importance to the people's opinions

Thompson Catherine 28/10/15 06:33

those who plan to be elected to main positions in leadership of the Party and State are carefully chosen based on their talent and ethics

Evans David 28/10/15 06:36

those people include young and women candidates

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