Vietnam just wrapped up a week-long Congress to choose a new crop of leaders for the country in the next five years. In case you wonder what a leadership transition in the Communist country is like, I’ve noted down a few simple facts and insights here:

Who is most politically powerful? 

Neither the President nor the Prime Minister. The Party’s General-Secretary is.

If Vietnam’s Communist party were a company, the Party’s General-Secretary would be  Chairman and the Prime Minister would be CEO. The President is just a ceremonial position (shaking hands, receiving credentials of ambassadors, giving awards, etc) 😛

The top four leaders are:

  • Party General-Secretary
  • Prime Minister
  • President
  • National Assembly chair

What is the election process is like?

In a nutshell, the party boss will be elected first at the national Congress. Other three top posts will be elected at the first meeting of the new National Assembly.

Party Congress

Every five years, Vietnam’s National Congress gathers over 1,500 delegates across the country, which were hand-picked from its 63 provincial & municipal parties, the associations, the organizations, etc, to the capital for a week-long meeting. Usually this Congress takes place in January.

The delegates, who are representatives of all party members in Vietnam, will first of all vote for a new party central committee of 200 members. Next up they will vote for a politburo of nearly 20 out of 200 central committee members. One of politburo members will become the new party boss.

The nominees for other three top posts (Prime Minister, President, NA Chair) will also be named at the Congress. However, their titles will not become official until the official election in July.

General Election

Since Vietnam is a single-party country, there will be no public campaigns for the Parliament (in Vietnam we call it National Assembly). The Communist Party is declared the winning party by default.

The general election’s utmost goal is to for National Assembly deputies (law-makers). Usually the event takes place on 22nd May (every five years).

National Assembly meeting

Once the national assembly deputies are elected, they will gather for a grand meeting in July where they got to vote for the new NA boss. He will nominate a President who will then nominate a Prime Minister.

Do we have democracy? It would say it’s still a work in progress. Over the past years there has been a growing number of self-nominated NA candidates who are not members of the Communist party, but only a handful were elected. This is mainly because only the party, rather than the population, is allowed to vet candidates and oftentimes the self-nominees would be prevented from running for seats.


5 thoughts on “Vietnamese politics for dummies

    1. Good question. Technically any Vietnamese people aged 18 and above are eligible to cast their votes for the National Assembly deputies. On the Election Day (every five years), we go to the poll in our neighborhood, CHECKING RESUMES of candidates and decide who deserve the votes. Each person can only vote for one deputy.

      As I said in Vietnam there is no such thing as a pubic campaign where the candidates address the public about their action plans. Most of the time we don’t know them in person. Well, there may be a few meetings between candidates and local people but not everybody gets to attend. No one in my family has ever been invited, even my father who himself is a Communist party member and a former soldier in the American war. So resumes are the only resource we can rely on (so sad right?). Last May, I had the chance to interview people at a local election poll, and learned that some of them cast the ballots for the young candidates because they believe in the young generation: better educated, more open-minded, more active; whereas some don’t really care (because they think the deputies were already chosen no matter who they vote for).

      Liked by 1 person

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