Vietnam is a country located in the region of Southeastern Asia. The transition to market economy has in a couple, three decades made Vietnam an economic success story. Living conditions have improved significantly for the vast majority of residents and the country has in many ways been opened to the outside world. But no similar political thunderstorm has followed the economic reforms.
The Communist Party is still the only allowed party and the persecution of dissent has increased rapidly in the last decade. The party had a fairly good reputation among the population for a long time through their efforts in the various liberation wars (see Modern history). Today, the reputation is sharply cut to the brim due to corruption and abuse of power.
- Countryaah: Country facts and history of Vietnam, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
Within the Communist Party there are various loosely cohesive factions. Constant fighting issues between them are mainly the pace of economic liberalization and the nature of political change. A reform-friendly bank wants to separate the party and government and give the private sector a bigger role in the economy. A more conservative group is concerned about the negative consequences of the economic changes, such as corruption and drug trafficking.
One thing, however, unites all leading politicians – nobody wants to give up the Communist Party’s special status and introduce multi-party systems.
Regime criticism and protest statements
Key issues for the country’s politicians are economic growth and the fight against corruption and abuse of power. They try to solve problems such as rising inflation, capital flight, financial neglect and disclosure of huge debts in state-owned companies. During the 2010s, a number of high-ranking people were sentenced to long prison terms or to death for financial crime. The question is whether that strategy will lead to fundamental changes, or whether more radical reforms are needed to overcome corruption (see Democracy and Rights).
The authorities have also sharpened the criticism of government critics. In recent years, more and more people have been arrested and convicted of various forms of breach of security or disruptive activities. Among the vulnerable are journalists and bloggers, political and religious activists, people working for land and labor rights issues, and advocates for human and social rights (see Democracy and Rights).
There are also protests among “ordinary people”. These often relate to land rights or deficiencies in the legal system and regulations that make it difficult to resolve legal disputes. In rural areas, poor farmers are protesting against tax claims from the authorities while basic services are failing.
China’s actions in the South China Sea and the growing role of neighboring countries in the region (see Foreign Policy and Defense) have also led to claims and damages against foreign-owned factories around Vietnam.
Success for the Conservatives
The Communist Party’s Twelfth Congress in January 2016 was preceded by fierce power struggles between reform friends and the Conservative Guard. The latter faction went out of battle and reform-friendly Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung lost the battle for the party’s general secretary post when the incumbent party leader, Conservative Nguyen Phu Trong, was re-elected. Dung was thus greatly weakened and was not elected to the powerful Central Committee (see Political system). In practice, this meant that his political career was over.
In April of that year, Police Chief Tran Dai Quang was elected new President of the National Assembly. A few days later, Dung was replaced at the Prime Minister’s post by Nguyen Xuan Phuc. In his new government there were three deputy prime ministers and 18 union ministers.
In May 2016, elections were held for the Legislative National Assembly. Of the 500 seats, 475 went to politicians belonging to the Communist Party, while 21 seats went to formally independent candidates approved by the Communist Party. Four seats were not appointed as no candidate in the electoral district succeeded in obtaining the 50 percent of the votes required to take office.
In September 2018, President Tran Dai Quang passed away after a period of illness, and Vice President Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh became acting head of state. In early October, Communist Party Secretary-General Nguyen Phu Trong was nominated as new president. He was formally elected new head of state by the National Assembly on October 23. As a result, he became the first person since the 1960s to hold the post of president and party chief.
Read more about the events in the Calendar.
READING TIPS – read more about Vietnam in the UI web magazine Foreign Magazine:
Vietnam: Globalized Party-State (2019-03-26)
Vietnam’s foreign policy in a changing regional order (2020-01-21)
FACTS – POLITICS
Cong Hoa Xa Hoi Chu Nghia Viet Nam / Socialist Republic of Vietnam
republic, unitary state
Head of State
President Nguyen Phu Trong (2018–)
Head of government
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc (2016–)
Most important parties with mandates in the last election
members of Communist Party 475, Independent 21 (2016)
Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections
members of Communist Party 458, Independent 42 (2011)
officially 99% in the election to the National Assembly in May 2016
elections to the National Assembly 2021
Activist is imprisoned for rioting
Democratic activist Tran Anh Kim is sentenced to five and a half years in prison for incitement, because of writing on the internet.
Prison for democracy activists
Six democracy activists are sentenced to up to six years in prison for “spreading propaganda” against the government, after hanging banners from a road bridge.
Human rights lawyer is arrested
Prominent human rights lawyer Le Cong Dinh is arrested, accused of posing a threat to national security. He has criticized bauxite mining in the mountains. The human rights organization Amnesty International calls Le Cong Dinh a prisoner of conscience.
UN Convention approved
Vietnam ratifies the UN Convention against Corruption.
Two editors are dismissed
Editors Nguyen Cong Khe and Le Hoang, at the newspapers Thanh Nien and Truoi Tre, are fired because of the newspapers’ reporting on the corruption scandal in October.
Amnesty for 15,000 arrested
Journalist Nguyen Viet Chin (see October 2008) is one of 15,000 released in connection with the Vietnamese New Year, in one of the most extensive amnesties to date.