Vietnam PM Dung wins lukewarm vote of confidence

Prime minister highly rated by fewer than half of assembly members amid public discontent

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 June, 2013, 2:52am

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung was dealt a rare public blow yesterday, winning the full support of fewer than half of members of a parliament dominated by the ruling Communist Party in the country's first-ever confidence vote.

Legislators could give ministers a vote of high confidence, confidence or low confidence.

The former central bank governor got votes of "high confidence" from 210 members of the 498-seat national assembly, with 160 passing votes of "low confidence" in a rare show of public scrutiny of Vietnam's leaders.

The confidence vote follows a call from the president last year for greater accountability amid public anger over mismanagement and corruption.

Analysts said the lukewarm response demonstrated discontent with the government's handling of entrenched graft and a once-thriving economy stagnating under the weight of bad debt.

Dung, 63, received 122 votes of "confidence" in the ballot.

Forty-seven officials faced votes; seven lawmakers did not cast ballots.

According to parliamentary law, any top officials receiving low confidence votes from two-thirds of the house must resign or face a second vote on their leadership.

Soviet-educated central bank governor Nguyen Van Binh fared worse than Dung, with 209 votes of low confidence and the full approval of just 88 members.

"Their not-so-good result reflects the people's dissatisfaction with their management of the economy and banking system," said Nguyen Quang A, a well-known activist and economist, who suggested the confidence vote was designed to appease the public while not threatening the status quo.

Dung in February approved an economic master plan aimed at reforming cash-haemorrhaging state-owned enterprises and tackling banks' high levels of toxic loans - factors blamed for squeezing credit growth and consumer spending, alarming foreign investors and causing more than 100,000 businesses to close.

Yesterday's confidence vote comes at a turbulent time for Vietnam's only party, which was rattled in January when former members and academics drafted and publicised their own constitution to coincide with a campaign to gauge public opinion on a charter seen as undemocratic.