I want to especially thank the staff at the Office of the National Assembly including Mr Nguyen Chi Dzung, Dr Nguyen Si Dung, Mr Hoang Minh Hieu and Mr Phung Van Hung

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I would like to foremost thank Mr Roland Rich, Director of the Centre for Democratic Institutions, who believed in me enough to fund my research and supervision of this project. I would also like to thank Sally Thompson and Felicity Pascoe at CDI for their assistance.

My thanks to the Centre for Legal Research Services at the Vietnam National University in Hanoi for allowing me to attend the training program funded by the World Bank and giving me the required research materials. I particularly would like to thank Dr Nguyen Ngoc Chi, Ms Nguyen Thi Hong Minh and Mr Hoang Nguyen Binh.

I want to especially thank the staff at the Office of the National Assembly including Mr Nguyen Chi Dzung, Dr Nguyen Si Dung, Mr Hoang Minh Hieu and Mr Phung Van Hung.

My thanks also extends to Ms Ngo Thi Tam from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Dr Bui Quang Dung from the Institute of Sociology in the National Center for Social Sciences and Humanities, To Kim Lien from the Asia Foundation , Mr Nguyen Anh Tuan and Mr Vo Tri Hao from Vietnam National University.


A number of principles are relevant in examining the issue of democracy in Vietnam. There is an initial distinction between Asian Confucian values and the Western liberal values discourse. More unique to the Vietnamese context is the socialist guiding principles of centralised democracy (tap trung dan chu) that allows the central authorities to direct the flow of democratic rights to citizens. Within the international context, the movement towards the system of democratic government is reflected in Article 25 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Vietnam is a party, which obligates states to provide citizens the right to participate in public affairs, to vote and to have equal access to the public service. In gauging whether the Vietnamese system of government is fundamentally democratic, it is useful to gauge the Vietnamese system by reference to the general comments on Article 25 by the Human Rights Committee that provides for minimum democratic standards.

The issuance of Decree 29/1998/ND-CP in May 1998, later amended by Decree 79/2003/ND-CP in July 2003, by the Vietnamese government was an effort aimed at reinforcing the rights of the people at the commune and village levels to participate in local government affairs. The Decrees which outlines what the local people can say and do to influence local government decisions and practices is, in the opinion of one commentator, to provide training to the people at the village level to demand greater accountability and transparency by local authorities so that a transition to a more direct system of democracy in the future could be realised.1 It is interesting to see, simply by visiting the Government’s publishing house and bookshops, that since the issue of the grassroots democracy Decree in 1998, an abundance of academic materials on democracy has been published. Most of the materials of course reflect the Marxist-Leninist ideologies on democracy and commentary on other forms of democracy, in particular western liberal democracy, are often made in a negative slant.

What lies ahead for democracy in Vietnam following the grassroots democracy decrees is hard to predict. On the one hand there are those who believe grassroots democracy is a response forced on the government to set a path for greater accountability and openness and, potentially, pluralism in politics as demands by the people continue to surface. On the other hand, grassroots democracy is seen by others as having no real value and is only a means for the government to continue to hold a grip on power using grassroots democracy merely as an exercise in legitimatisation.2 Then there is the Government’s view, which is that no evolutionary process is taking place and grassroots democracy is simply a reinforcement of village democracy which has been practiced since the Nguyen and Le dynasties.3

This paper will provide an analysis of the grassroots democracy initiative by examining the legal provisions, the implementation of the Decree by local authorities and how grassroots democracy fits within Vietnamese politics and law. Part I navigates through the contradictory system of democracy in Vietnam by discussing the arguments which the Vietnamese authorities give to identify itself as democratic. A discussion of the paradoxes that make up the Vietnamese arguments and the explanations for the existence of those paradoxes will also be pursued. Part II focuses on the implementation of the grassroots democracy initiative, the rationale behind the Decree’s implementation and a presentation on the progress of the Decree in terms of the impacts it is having on local perceptions and values of leadership and democracy. Finally, Part III comments on the prospects for genuine democratic change by focusing on the democratic theories that might be acceptable for the Vietnamese conditions.


1.1 Overview of the Vietnamese Democratic System

The text of the 1992 Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam has provisions that reflect a democratic system of government in which the Vietnamese people are sovereign. They elect representatives to the National Assembly and the People’s Councils under the principles of universal, equal, direct and secret suffrage.4 However, amongst the broad ranging rights given to the people there are limitations which are determined and controlled by the Government, the Fatherland Front and the Communist Party, the force leading the state and society. In the Vietnamese context rights granted are accompanied with duties and are usually placed in the widest terms. For example the duty to show loyalty to the motherland5 or the duties to respect and protect the property of the State and the public interest6 are capable of being interpreted widely to place heavy restrictions on any constitutional rights.

In Vietnam the National Assembly is the highest representative organ, with the power to amend the constitution and enact legislation.7 The Standing Committee is a permanent Committee of the National Assembly and its role, amongst other things, is to interpret the Constitution and the law.8 The National Assembly, the State President, and the Government comprise the centralised government authority and together they depend on the feedback on the implementation of laws, decrees circulars and other legal instruments by the local organs of State power being the People’s Council and People’s Committee of the Provinces, Districts and Communes. This hierarchical structure embodies the concept of centralised democracy which is the premise of the Vietnamese democratic system.9

Democratic centralism is a Marxist-Leninist construction and is the basis for the Vietnamese socialist orientation.10 Democratic centralism revolves around the notion that the people are the masters who take charge through the collective leadership and representation of the Communist Party. That is, the central authority represents the individuals collectively and leads according to the will of the working class who in Vietnam comprises the eighty per cent of the population, mainly living in the rural areas.11 Hierarchy and order is emphasised where the minority will refer to the majority, lower levels comply with the higher levels, local authorities will take heed of the central government’s authority, review and self-criticism is made from the bottom-up as well as from the top-down in the local-central structure where individuals must adhere to the establishment.12 The people are encouraged to make suggestions and give opinions about the work of the State, however, this right is restricted to members of the Communist Party who must not criticise an issue once the Party has made a resolution settling the issue. The rationale is that members must give their full concentration to the effective implementation of the decision.13

Self-criticism, open discussions and being able to reflect upon the people’s opinions are important to the decision making process of the Party and Government. Based on centralised democracy, the views of the people at the local levels do not directly reach the central authorities but are summarised and reported up the local-central chain of command. That is, the commune local government (xa) will summarise the people’s concerns at that level and report them to the district level (huyen). This process of summarisation is repeated from the district level to the provincial level (tinh) and finally from the provinces to the central authority (trung uong). Furthermore, the State’s policies or legal instruments flow down from the same hierarchical structure and are then implemented by the relevant local authorities in order to have a real legal effect upon the individuals.

Through the participation of the people in varying aspects of public affairs, the Vietnamese government and some academics argue that Vietnam has both a direct and representative democracy where democracy is the source of state authority.14 Direct democracy is practiced through: participation by individuals in voting for members to the Local People’s Council and the National Assembly; allowing the people to discuss, monitor, inspect and place opinions on the work of the local governments as is provided for in the grassroots democracy initiative; direct comments and opinions by the people are given to members of the National Assembly; participation by the people in the social organisations under the Communist Party such as the Women’s Union and Youth League.15 Representative democracy is reflected through the representation of the constituencies by the elected members of the National Assembly and the local People’s Council.

However, there are some academics in Vietnam who believe that there are contradictions in presenting the country as has having a genuine democracy.16 In an opinion article in reply to an article by Hoang Van Nghia17, Vo Tri and Vo Vi argued that direct and representative democracy operating together to represent the true will of the people through elections must be protected by human rights such as the freedoms of association, speech and religion.18 Article 25 of the ICCPR places obligations on all states to adopt a minimum form of democratic government so that citizens can participate in public affairs.

Figure 1. The Vietnamese Democratic System19

The above diagram is a generalised account of the system of democracy in Vietnam. Following the model of Article 25 in the ICCPR, democracy at its minimum means people’s participation in public affairs or the people’s rights to exercise political power. More specifically, it encapsulates the power to make decisions about local issues, universal suffrage that is free, fair and without discriminatory distinctions and the protection of the rights to freedom of political communications that includes freedom of expression, assembly and association.20

In Vietnam’s report to the UN Human Rights Committee, the Vietnamese government reported that the rights and protections under article 25 were effectively discharged.21 Vietnamese citizens are able to choose their representatives to the National Assembly and also their representatives to the leadership positions in the People’s Council of the Communes, Districts and Provinces. The Law on the Election of Members to the National Assembly22 and the recent amendment on the Law on Elections of the People’s Council23 stipulate that anyone over the age of eighteen can participate in universal, free, equal and direct elections through a secret ballot and can stand as a candidate for elections at the age of twenty-one. In relation to representations at the commune levels, the Law on the Elections of the People’s Council states that in communes of non-mountainous areas, people can elect five members out of the twenty-five available candidates24.

Freedom of expression and association are fundamental to the freedom of political communication and citizen’s participation in the conduct of public affairs, is purportedly protected through Article 6925 of the Constitution. A free press is essential to check the powers of the State and the citizen’s right to freedom of the press and freedom of speech in the press is purportedly under Article 426 of the Law on Press.

The General Comment by the Human Rights Committee suggests that citizens should have the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs by exerting influence through public debate and dialogue with their representatives.27 In Vietnam the Law on Citizen’s Claims and Denunciation28 permits citizens to lodge complaints (Khieu Nai) and denounce (To Cao) decisions made by Government agencies and state organs. Citizens are able to make submissions in support or disagreement to legal instruments that are being considered by the National Assembly or Standing Committee under Article 39 of the Law on the Promulgation of Legal Documents.29 However, the ability of citizens to engage with their local representatives is the main purpose of the grassroots democracy Decree where a number of democratic rights are granted to the citizens including the requirement to be consulted on projects that affect the commune.

1.2 Paradoxes and Contradictions

Having formally articulated a legal system that protects democratic rights according to the Vietnamese State authorities, the rhetoric is sometimes paradoxical and contradictory due predominantly to the looseness of the legal provisions that give wide discretions to state officials. Although a Vietnamese citizen can stand as a candidate for elections at the age of twenty-one years without having to be a member of the Communist Party, the candidate must be approved by the Fatherland Front and satisfy all the election criteria.30 The criteria are broad ranging, subjective and potentially exposed to arbitrariness. What does it mean to be faithful to the Fatherland of Vietnam, to strive to undertake national renovation and regional development or to have virtue and be a model legal citizen?31 The Fatherland Front does the background checks and screening of all candidates and recommends candidates to appear on the ballot paper.32 This implies that it will be very difficult for a person to stand for elections who does not uphold the Socialist ideals or a political view consistent with the Communist Party. It is then questionable whether the criteria can give effect to the free expression of the will of the electors if there are no different or alternative political views in the community being represented.33 Furthermore, the right and opportunity to stand for election to the People’s Council is being placed with restrictions that are unreasonable and discriminatory in that the person standing for elections will have to have political affiliations with the Communist Party directly or, indirectly by being screened through the process by the Fatherland Front.

The freedom of expression and association is protected and enjoyed to a certain limit in Vietnam by placing greater emphasis on individual duties and a highly skewed balance towards the public or national security interests. This is not keeping in faith with good human rights practices and is inconsistent with the Johannesburg Principles on National Security, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information.34 Although the Principles are non-binding, they are based on international and regional law and standards relating to the protection of human rights, evolving state practices and the general principles of law recognised by the community of nations.35 As was stated above the free communication of information and ideas about public and political issues between citizens, candidates and elected representatives is essential to a democratic system.

Amnesty International argued that Vietnam violated the freedom of expression in the sentencing of the so called cyber dissidents who were charged with crimes against national security under Articles 80 & 88 of the Criminal Code 1999 for spying and conducting propaganda against the State.36 The criminal activities included translating the text of “What is democracy” from the United States embassy in Vietnam and forming an independent political party.

The Johannesburg Principles stipulates that any restrictions on freedom of expression must be prescribed by law and only as necessary in a democratic society to protect a legitimate national security interest.37 Such restrictions in a democratic society should be the least restrictive possible and be compatible with democratic principles and employed only where there is a serious threat to a legitimate national interest.38 Restrictions sought to be justified on the ground of national security are not legitimate if their genuine purpose or demonstrable effect is to protect interests unrelated to national security, including, for example, to protect a government from embarrassment or exposure of wrongdoing, or to conceal information about the functioning of its public institutions, or to entrench a particular ideology, or to suppress industrial unrest.39 However, the Vietnamese authorities argue that the activities of ‘dissidents’ and other organisations not within the control of the Communist Party seriously affect the social order of Vietnam.

The overemphasis on duties and protection of national security or preservation of community order affects the way that Vietnamese citizen exercise their right to denunciate and practice their democratic rights. For example, the crime of disrupting public order under Article 245 and the crime of taking advantage of democratic right so as to encroach upon the right of the State and the lawful interest of the community under Article 25840 of the Criminal Code 1999, are broad and subjected to wide official discretion. There are no meanings given to “disruption of public order” or “taking advantage of a democratic right” and thus these provisions could be interpreted to prevent individuals from fully exercising their democratic rights.

There is however provisions within the Criminal Code 1999 that protects individuals, when lodging a claim or making a denunciation to a government agency, by penalising those who fail to investigate a claim, those who uses one’s position to influence the results or those who victimise individuals who make a complaint or denunciation.41

1.3 Explanations and Ideology

The curtailment of individual rights is made possible under a legal system where the rule of law is weak and where the power to make laws and interpret laws, including the Constitution, is held concurrently with the National Assembly and its delegated body, the Standing Committee.42 Thus, to reconcile the rationale that enables the state to curtail individual rights, it is appropriate to examine the Vietnamese socialist law based state and to ask, ‘What is law?’ in such a system.

For Vietnam in the 1970s and 1980s, law was simply an instrument that gave effect to Party policy and did not override policy.43 The Communist Party provides the leadership and the State organ merely implements Party policy for the people’s collective mastery (lam chu tap the). This notion of collective mastery is important for the state to legitimise its power. That is, since eighty per cent of the population live in the rural areas, the Party maintains that it is best to represent the struggle of the working class.44 The Party thus claims a mandate from the majority rural collective to control and rule the country. The Party’s moral legitimacy continues to be upheld through championing the successful struggle against the French colonialists and the reunification of the country following the American war in Vietnam.

Following the amendments to the Constitution in 1992, law became superior to that of policy, and law was considered to have a binding effect.45 The elevation of law having a higher status is reflected in one of the key principles of the Vietnamese legal system where anything that is not passed in law or explicitly provided for in a legal instrument is prohibited. The shift to a socialist law based state where law takes precedent over Party policy does not mean that the Communist Party no longer continues to have a powerful role. The Party continues to provide the moral and revolutionary leadership and the National Assembly readily passes laws that are in line with Party policies.46 The State can legitimately maintain laws that are adverse to individual freedoms for the benefit of the people in a way which the State thinks proper for the collective mastery. Thus, even under a Socialist law-based State, there does not seem to be impediments on the State to exercise its sovereign power, as would be the case if there existed the rule of law and separations of power between the different arms of Government. The interpretation of laws remains an important part of the State’s powers. The State as managers of the ruling proletarian class decides which laws benefit and reflect the will of the people.47 The State through the Party provides the moral examples where the dictates of popular or community interests tend to be infallible. Western notions of individual rights and freedoms are characterised as bourgeois and used only to serve the interest of the ruling minority elites.48

Moral virtue and concepts of morality are rooted in the Vietnamese Confucian (Nho Giao) tradition which has been slowly resurrected and used in the Asian values discourse to reconcile Vietnam’s unique system of democracy. The support for the Asian values agenda to instil a cultural relativist perspective to universal human rights and democratic rights was the aim of the controversial Bangkok Declaration in 1993.49 The obstacle for Vietnam to engage in the Asian values discourse with the core neo-Confucian values is to harmonise these values and traditions with the Marxist-socialist ideology.50 However, despite the recent influences of Marxism and Leninism, Confucian traditions still govern the behaviours of and relations between Vietnamese people.51 Under Confucian traditions, the Vietnamese people generally place the interests of the society above those of the family and of themselves. The rights of each individual are respected on condition that they are not in opposition to those of the family, village and country.52 There is a danger in using the Asian values debate to maximise political and economic gains by blending local culture together with nationalism to legitimise a regime.53 However, at the same time, Confucianism continues to persist in a significant form in the ordinary lives of the people regardless of the political philosophy of the regime, thus, making the legitimisation argument less strong. 54 In Vietnam even with Marxist-Leninist ideologies, Confucian beliefs are widely practiced.

There are therefore aspects of Vietnamese and Asian Confucianism that may make Vietnam and other East Asian countries difficult subjects for liberal democracy.55 The maintenance of harmony, free of conflicts so as to save face and preserve relationships, coupled with the endeavour to achieve benevolence (nghia) are key precepts that underpin the Vietnamese political system. This tends to lead to ineffective opposition parties, non-competitive elections and party led consensus decision making.56 This analysis is exemplified in elections of Vietnam’s National Assembly members and is even more revealing in the elections of the local People’s Council where the people will usually vote for candidates who are thought to be virtuous and of high moral standing rather than because of their policy platforms.57 Competition amongst candidates at the national level are usually issues oriented and involves informal debate or persuasion of certain policy and do not focus on an attack on the character of standing candidates.58 Although factions exist within the Party, all decisions made by the Party must be consensual and lobbying previously made by different factions are left in the background of informal politics so as not to allow the loss of face or conflicts to resonate onto the public sphere.59

The Party usually argues that democracy flourishes when a certain level of economic development is reached.60 That is, the need to clothe, feed and shelter ordinary people precedes democratic rights. Vietnam is one of the poorest countries in the world and in the Party’s view, democracy is of less importance to ordinary people in their daily struggle to survive. This seems to support the theory that economic development leads to democracy as a country becomes richer and the middle class expands, people’s knowledge also expands giving rise to demands by the people for greater individual freedoms and democratic rights.61 However, the evidence in Southeast Asia is thin.62 It is argued in Vietnam that a government and political structure that is stable and works to increase levels of economic growth is more valued than a functioning multiparty system.63


For the people to achieve collective mastery they must be able to engage with their representatives. Grassroots democracy embodies the Vietnamese ideal of people’s participation at the lowest level of government, being the communes. “People know, people discuss, people do and people monitor” (Dan biet, dan ban, dan lam va dan kiem tra) is the official mass line that reinforces the democratic rights which the people possessed since the beginning of the mass struggle for independence against the French colonialists.64 The ability of the people to participate in the local affairs of the communes is a laudable feature of the ostensible Vietnamese democracy. This part attempts to go beyond the Party rhetoric to find out whether there is a genuine potential for grassroots democracy to work. That is, whether the will of the people is genuinely expressed and people’s concerns are judiciously attended to. The analysis in this part will: examine the rationale behind the policy on grassroots democracy; detail the elements of the Grassroots Democracy Decrees 29/1998/ND-CP and 79/2003/ND-CP, the democratic rights conferred on the people and the obligations of local officials; evaluate the progress on the implementation of the Decree since 1998; and attempt to understand the impact of the Decree on the local people through their perceptions and values of grassroots democracy.

2.1 Policy Rationale

It was stated by Nguyen Van Sau and Ho Van Thong that President Ho Chi Minh, representing the moral infallibility of the country, had encouraged the cadres and officials to be closer to the people, to listen to them and to take the people as the foundation for policy making.65 Thus, the democratic rights proposed in the current Grassroots Democracy Decree were promoted by President Ho Chi Minh during the struggle for independence. For the President to quote from the Declaration of Independence of the United States to incorporate basic freedoms and rights implied that he wanted a similar system of human rights and protection for the Vietnamese people. Nevertheless, the democratic rights that were promoted by Ho Chi Minh could not come to full fruition because of the subsequent conflicts and the American War in Vietnam. It has only been in recent years that the country was able to recover and slowly in a step by step fashion allow the people to regain and practice their democratic rights.66

To say that Vietnam operates exclusively in a top-down hierarchical structure is not always correct. There were moments in history, particularly during the struggle for independence, in which local opinions swayed the top decision makers. This was a form of quasi-democracy where the Party needed to be “mass regarding” to obtain popular support for the revolution.67 Similarly, over the years, peasant pressure has forced the Party to respond in real policy terms. Professor Kerkvliet argues that the mass disregard for the policy of collectivisation including “sneaky contracts” and other schemes by local officials and villagers to bypass the inefficient system of collectivisation forced the Party to allow the process of de-collectivisation.68

In similar ways, the reinforcement or modern introduction of grassroots democracy was in response to a series of rural and urban unrests over, amongst other things, unfavourable land reforms, mass corruption and embezzlement of commune funds. There was overall disenchantments with the leadership of local officials throughout the country. The rural unrest was most concerning for the central administration in May 1997 where thousands of farmers and families converged on the provincial capital of Thai Binh province to protest against corruption, notably irregularities in the financial management and embezzlement of wide-ranging local infrastructures in which the local villagers were asked to contribute.69 Violence ensued when a number of officials were attacked and their homes were set alight. There were also officially reported cases of popular anger in Quang Binh, Thanh Hoa, and the southern province of Dong Nai over very similar issues.70 The official reports stated that the people were protesting against the loss of democracy and against the lifestyle of the local officials. The reports noted that the people in Thai Binh had never protested against the Party or State because it was a province that had produced numerous revolutionary fighters.71

The culmination of popular anger forced the central government to take action. Do Muoi, General Secretary of the Communist Party, attributed the unrest to a lack of democracy and failure of the local leaders to be closer and accountable to the people and proposed the institution of what is now the grassroots democracy Decree.72 The Party and Central Government had to be seen to be taking the people’s concerns seriously. After all, the large number of people who had protested were from the working class of rural Vietnam, the Party’s sole constituency. Thus, a failure to adequately respond would make the Party lose its credibility.

Fighting corruption was one of the key rationales behind the grassroots democracy Decree.73 Allowing people to inspect and monitor the internal workings and financial management of the local communes, help make the local leadership and officials accountable to their constituency. The greater openness and participation in the workings of the local communes by the people enhances the financial integrity of the system.

Much of the Vietnamese literature on the rationale for grassroots democracy makes the argument that democracy in local communes enhances its economic development.74 This line of argument is supported by a representative of an international non-government organisation in Vietnam who stated that when they argue in favour of the benefits of democracy or people’s participation, they do so in terms of the economic benefits which the local people will enjoy, that is, the benefits people gained from being better consulted or more involved in the modernisation of the local communes.75 It is interesting that the rationale for greater democratic rights excludes the fact that all people are inherently entitled to those rights because of their humanity and because those rights represent the basic fundamental rights of humankind.

Furthermore, on a practical level, the fact that people need to plan their lives by having certainty and the capacity to choose from various options make it imperative that democratic rights are genuinely conferred.76 People in communes need to know and be consulted about land planning or where bridges will be built so that they can adjust their interests, economic or otherwise, to make sound choices.

2.2 Elements of Grassroots Democracy Decree

Do Muoi lobbied for strengthening of democracy at the local levels and on 18 February 1998, the Party issued Directive 30-CT/TW that instilled the phrase dan biet, dan ban, dan lam va dan kiem tra in the psyche of local officials.77 It is interesting to note that Party policy alone, although it represents the moral leadership, did not produce that sense of obligation in local officials even though grassroots democracy had theoretically existed before the introduction of Decree 29.78 Commentators have stated that laws must be issued to reinforce the democratic rights of the people and the Decree was meant to confer that sense of obligation.79 Thus, this sense of obligation reflects the Socialist law-based system as discussed above where law is superior to that of Party policy and an expectation for law to give clarity to official conduct.

Decree 29/ND-CP in 1998 was issued following Directive 30 and grants four general democratic rights to the people at the commune level: work to be informed, work to be directly discussed, work to be consulted, and work to monitor or inspect. However, it is deceiving to call them rights because individuals have no judicial or administrative avenues to enforce those rights, rather, they are better considered as democratic guidelines or practices in which local commune officials are obligated to follow. All decrees issued by the Central Government must be followed and implemented by the lower levels of government. However, what makes it difficult and cumbersome in the Vietnamese hierarchical structure is that at each level of government, instructions on how the Central Government’s decree should be implemented must be given to the lower level. That is, the province must provide implementing guidelines to the districts and the districts to the communes.80 The process is to ensure that the central government decree can be implemented and accommodated into local conditions; however, at the same time it is time consuming.

Decree 79/ND-CP of 2003 amended Decree 29 to make the implementation process faster by specifically naming the commune People’s Council and People’s Committee81 as directly responsible for implementing grassroots democracy without having to wait for the implementing instructions from the higher authorities. Generally, Decree 79 also extended the lists of works permitted within the democratic practices82 and extended and clarified the methods used to implement those practices.83 With exceptions to those already mentioned amendments, the structure of both Decrees is identical. That is, the first section of each Part of the four democratic practices exhaustively lists the work or the extent of the people’s ability to participate. The second section outlines the methods in which the officials can go about implementing those practices. Given a legal system that precludes and prohibits acts that are not explicitly provided for by law, the officials and the people can only exercise democratic practices to the extent that are explicitly provided for by Decree 79.

In the preamble of Decree 79 all the elements of the Decree are to be implemented equivalently in the city precincts or districts and townships and the Ministry of Home Affairs is to guide through the successful implementation of the Decree. The responsibility in executing the Decree is also held by all the Government ministries and agencies along with the President of the People’s Committee at the provincial and city level.

Part one of Decree 79 is a general provision that incorporates the guidelines on grassroots democracy into the work of the local People’s Council and People’s Committee.84 The Decree succinctly summarises the rationale of grassroots democracy then emphasises a few caveats for bringing into full play the people’s mastery (phat huy quyen lam chu cua nhan dan). That is, grassroots democracy must be closely linked with the socialist orientation and with the division of the roles where the Party acts as leaders, the State as managers and the people being the masters.85 There is a caveat where people abusing democracy will be firmly dealt with.86 This provision is vague as it does not define what it means to abuse democracy and what penalties will ensue if there is a breach. The effect of the provision will have a chilling effect on people wanting to participate in the affairs of the local commune as an individual’s legitimate claim may be interpreted to mean an abuse of democracy.

Officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs tried to clarify the provision by stating that a breach of democracy will entail such things as using democracy to defame another person, using democracy so as to advance the selfish personal interests to the detriment of society or using democracy in breach of the Constitution or Vietnamese law.87 It would appear that the explanation would create further ambiguities because there is no mention of what the process or test will be to balance the interest of society as a whole. Democratic rights do not act to trump other Vietnamese laws. Even though elements of democracy are present in the Vietnamese Constitution, there is no Constitutional court or a judiciary with the power to judge whether a Constitutional breach has occurred.

An important aspect is the language that is used in the text of the Decree which supports not only the Confucian values of community interests over the individual interests, but also the socialist ideology of collective mastery. The text refers to the ability of the people (nhan dan) to be informed about certain matters, the people to discuss directly the work of the commune, the types of work in which the people should be consulted, and the areas of work in which the people can inspect or monitor. Thus, it implies that response and action by the local officials will only be followed where there is a sizeable mass collective. Furthermore, in the section where the Decree specifies how officials can fulfil the people’s democratic practices, individual’s concerns are seen to have been effectively dealt with if it is channelled through a social organisation such as the Fatherland Front, Vietnamese Youth League, the Women’s Union or through the village head.88 The concept of the individual (ca nhan), is not present in the text of the Decree which is consistent with the way Socialism has contested individualism in favour of the spirit of the collectivity (tap the) or community (doan the).89

The table below summarises the democratic guidelines within Decree 79 detailing the four main democratic practices. The table includes examples of the democratic practices within the exhaustive list and stipulates the modes of implementation of a democratic practice.

Democratic Guidelines

Democratic Practices

Examples of practices in the exhaustive list

Examples of Modes of Implementation

Part II

Work that the people need to be informed about.

Resolution of the People’s Council and People’s Committee, policies and legal instruments of the State, administrative fees, taxes or government charges, annual financial records of the commune, poverty reduction strategies and infrastructure projects proposals: Article 5.

Collaboration with the Fatherland Front and the village head but may involve: posting notices outside the local commune government offices, through the public loudspeakers, organising meetings with electors and representatives, meetings of the commune People’s Council and People’s Committee, send information to the village head: Article 6.

Part III

Work that the people at the village and commune can discuss and decide directly.

The amount of contribution to building the commune and public projects that benefit the community e.g. electricity, roads, schools, hospitals, cultural centres; building village codes, creating civilised ways of living and maintaining security and order; establishing supervisory board to oversee special projects which the people have contributed money towards: Article 7.

Holding meetings with the people of the communes, secret ballot and polling. The local administration must act upon a majority consensus on a matter voted by the people: Article 9.

Part IV

Work of the local authority that must be presented to the people for an opinion or public debate before the local authority can make a decision.

Draft resolutions of the commune People’s Council, draft of a scheme or plan to boost the yearly socio-economic development of the commune, plan of land use rights and land subdivisions, draft plans to implement national targets, policies to reduce unemployment in the commune: Article 10.

In collaboration with the Fatherland Front: meeting with the people or head of family for public debate, distribute surveys to collect opinions, meeting with economic organisation for debate, suggestion boxes: Article 11

Part V

Work the people can inspect and monitor.

Activities of the local authorities, social, professional and political organisations; results of the implementation of the resolution of the People’s Council; activities of the President of the People’s Council and People’s Committee, financial statements of communes; administration of land use rights at commune level: Article 12.

People can directly or indirectly inspect or monitor by attending meetings (if invited) or through representative of social organisation of the local authorities on a matter that is at issue; lodge an opinion on the annual and bi-annual budget of the commune: Article 13.
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I want to especially thank the staff at the Office of the National Assembly including Mr Nguyen Chi Dzung, Dr Nguyen Si Dung, Mr Hoang Minh Hieu and Mr Phung Van Hung iconDr. Sc. Hoang dinh tien, Dr. Pham huy long, Dr. Tran van xuan, Dr. Cu minh hoang

I want to especially thank the staff at the Office of the National Assembly including Mr Nguyen Chi Dzung, Dr Nguyen Si Dung, Mr Hoang Minh Hieu and Mr Phung Van Hung iconArt by Doug Mahnke & Tom Nguyen

I want to especially thank the staff at the Office of the National Assembly including Mr Nguyen Chi Dzung, Dr Nguyen Si Dung, Mr Hoang Minh Hieu and Mr Phung Van Hung iconArt by Doug Mahnke & Tom Nguyen

I want to especially thank the staff at the Office of the National Assembly including Mr Nguyen Chi Dzung, Dr Nguyen Si Dung, Mr Hoang Minh Hieu and Mr Phung Van Hung icon42: 5-18. doi: 10. 1093/cdj/bsi094 5665. Wang, X., Nguyen, M., Foliente, G., and Ye, L. (2007). An approach to modelling concrete bridge condition deterioration using a statistical causal relationship based on inspection data. Structure and Infrastructure Engineering 3

I want to especially thank the staff at the Office of the National Assembly including Mr Nguyen Chi Dzung, Dr Nguyen Si Dung, Mr Hoang Minh Hieu and Mr Phung Van Hung iconProceedings of the national assembly

I want to especially thank the staff at the Office of the National Assembly including Mr Nguyen Chi Dzung, Dr Nguyen Si Dung, Mr Hoang Minh Hieu and Mr Phung Van Hung iconAbbink, O. A., van Konijnenburg van Cittert, J. H. A., Van der Zwan, C. J. & Visscher, H

I want to especially thank the staff at the Office of the National Assembly including Mr Nguyen Chi Dzung, Dr Nguyen Si Dung, Mr Hoang Minh Hieu and Mr Phung Van Hung iconAbbink, O. A., van Konijnenburg van Cittert, J. H. A., Van der Zwan, C. J. & Visscher, H

I want to especially thank the staff at the Office of the National Assembly including Mr Nguyen Chi Dzung, Dr Nguyen Si Dung, Mr Hoang Minh Hieu and Mr Phung Van Hung iconElam De oude naam van het land ten oosten van Babylonië. Oud-perzisch: Husha (vandaar Choezistan), in het stroomgebied van de Karoen en de Kertsja

I want to especially thank the staff at the Office of the National Assembly including Mr Nguyen Chi Dzung, Dr Nguyen Si Dung, Mr Hoang Minh Hieu and Mr Phung Van Hung iconNational Gallery Technical Bulletin Volume 20, 1999: Painting in Antwerp and London: Rubens and Van Dyck

I want to especially thank the staff at the Office of the National Assembly including Mr Nguyen Chi Dzung, Dr Nguyen Si Dung, Mr Hoang Minh Hieu and Mr Phung Van Hung iconLondon Assembly mqt – 23 May 2012 1st Mayor’s Report to the Assembly

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