Eyes on Vietnam's Nguyen Tan Dung as top leaders face confidence vote
Vietnam's leaders faced their first confidence vote in the communist-controlled parliament yesterday, as the authoritarian regime seeks to defuse growing public anger over corruption and a lack of political accountability.
The vote - to be held annually - was approved by the one-party state's rubber-stamp legislature in November and requires most senior politicians, including the prime minister and president, to win support from lawmakers.
The process has been hailed in the official press as part of a new commitment to transparency and accountability, but observers saw little threat to the communist hierarchy and expected the results to be decided in advance behind closed doors.
It will not be "a proper vote", said Nguyen Minh Thuyet, a former deputy who called for a confidence vote on Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in 2010.
Even so, coupled with a recent government call for public consultation over proposed constitutional amendments, the vote indicates that the party is attempting to respond to rising public dissatisfaction, experts said. "This does represent an effort by the party and state to shore up its faltering legitimacy," said Professor Jonathan London at Hong Kong's City University.
While it is highly unlikely that the vote will result in any change, "even symbolically it is an important event, in Vietnam's evolution and in the evolution of the National Assembly," he added.
The results of the voting, which covers 47 top officials who yesterday submitted reports to lawmakers of their work performance, were expected to be announced today.
According to state media, officials who win support from less than half of lawmakers for two consecutive years may be forced to resign - but this is a "complicated", slow and effectively meaningless process, Thuyet said. "Everyone will win the vote," he said, describing widespread concerns that top officials would close ranks behind the scenes to support each other.
The most closely watched vote will be for Dung, who was handed a second five-year term by the party in 2011 despite his widespread unpopularity among the public. Dung has faced down repeated threats to his tenure, including rare public criticism from senior party figures and even an unprecedented call from one lawmaker to resign.
After months of internal political wrangling, it seems "the balance of power is clearly in favour of the prime minister", Nguyen Van Hieu, 76, a former top party member turned political commentator said. Dung is now "untouchable", he said.
Critics blame the 63-year-old's policies and governing style for Vietnam's economic malaise, endemic corruption and banking system riddled with toxic debt.