Vietnam’s constitution pays lip service to democratic principles, but the country of 93m people is a repressive one-party state. In it, ordinary folk have little say over who their leaders are. Almost every top official in Vietnam is a Communist Party member, The Economist notes:
Nguyen Dinh Cong, a retired university lecturer who quit the party last month in disgust over its jailing of dissidents, its stuffy Marxism-Leninism and its refusal to allow multi-party elections, says that polls in Vietnam are “just for show”…….Yet this year’s self-nominating candidates, with a deadline this week to register for a parliamentary election scheduled to take place in late May, are testing the limits like never before. Nearly 100 candidates have put themselves forward from Hanoi, the capital, and Ho Chi Minh City, the commercial hub, alone. Some 15 of these are, like Mr Quang A (right), outspoken democracy activists. They include a former executive at a state-owned broadcaster and the vice-chair of an independent if unofficial journalists’ association. Other self-nominators, though not dissidents, are far removed from the party top brass. For instance, Mai Khoi (above), a pop singer from Ho Chi Minh City, is campaigning, including on Facebook, as a would-be parliamentary voice for Vietnam’s woefully underrepresented youth.
“We’re pioneers,” said former career soldier turned political activist Nguyen Tuong Thuy, who is a member of the banned Free Journalist Club:
Facebook and other social media are key tools that have allowed the independent candidates to use the polls in this way, he said, adding that they organize, raise support, and spread their message online.
“We want to encourage people to understand their rights. Authorities behave like (elections) are some gift they bestow, but it is our right as citizens,” he said.