How Vietnam is governed
The Socialist Republic of Vietnam was formally established
in July, 1976, upon the official reunification of North
and South Vietnam. It has only one party, the Vietnamese
Communist Party founded in 1930 by Ho Chi Minh, usually
referred to as ‘the Party’.
The centre of power is the Political Bureau, (usually abbreviated
to ‘Politburo’). Members are elected by the 125-strong Central
Committee of the Party, and include the General Secretary,
the highest in rank, followed by the President and the Prime
Policy decisions are initiated at Politburo/Central Committee
level, and passed on to a unicameral 500 member National
Assembly that meets for about a month twice a year to discuss
and enact the necessary legislation. National Assembly proceedings
are reported in the press.
Members of the National Assembly are elected at local level
every five years. Suffrage is universal, but candidates
for election must be approved by the Party.
Congresses are held at irregular intervals to discuss major
policy issues. There have been eleven Congresses so far,
the most recent being in 2002. A Party Congress takes place
behind closed doors – debate is sometimes very intense as
proceedings can involve major policy changes. For example,
the sixth Congress approved the policy of ‘doi moi’ ushering
in a new era of openness and engagement with the international
community, a massive policy shift from USSR-style isolation
as ‘a state of proletarian dictatorship’.
is administered by about two dozen government Ministries.
The central government is replicated to a large degree in
each of Vietnam’s sixty or so provinces. Each has a Party
Committee with an executive level, of which the General
Secretary is the most senior post, and a People’s Committee
to enact legislation passed down from the National Assembly.
Members of People’s Committees are elected from lower levels
of administration, precincts and wards in urban areas, districts
and communes elsewhere. The Ministry structure is replicated
as local Departments in a direct line from Hanoi.
importance of the Provinces
Foreign sources often portray Vietnam's provincial authorities
as simple administrative bodies with little power. This
is far from reality. Provinces have considerable autonomy,
and their views are a powerful influence upon central government
thinking. Indeed, one of Vietnam’s problems is that the
delicate balance of power between centre and local administration
often hinders national co-ordination. Tourism is a good
and relevant example: provincial autonomy has led to a variety
of arrangements, structures and polices in different provinces,
and frequent duplication of investment.
tape and regulations
As in most countries, bureaucracy is a problem in Vietnam.
‘Law’ is a comparatively new concept (until the 1990’s,
Vietnam had no further education law institutions). Much
legislation takes the form or regulations and circulars
that are passed down to local level for implementation.
Interpretations often differ from area to area, and much
paperwork is generated in attempts to standardise procedures.
involves more than one ministry. As communication is almost
entirely vertical, there is little co-ordination between
different ministries and Departments leading to long delays
and frustration. Recently, the government has tried to speed
things up by laying down time limits for particular activities,
but bureaucrats everywhere are skilled in the art of finding
exceptions to such rules and generating more forms to be