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Constitutionalizing Single Party Leadership in Vietnam: Dilemmas of Reform

  • Thiem Hai BUI (a1)

Abstract

The supremacy of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) has been the basic norm in Vietnam’s constitution since 1980. While it was not changed in the final constitutional amendments in 2013, this grundnorm was seriously debated during the constitutional reform process between 2010-2013, thus indicating a shift in the constitutional dialogue in Vietnam. This article traces the history of this basic norm throughout constitutional amendments of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) and assesses how the basic norm has become increasingly contested. Contestations over this basic norm have played out markedly over the recent constitutional reform process. The discursive power in these contestations has shaken the rationality-based legitimacy of this basic norm to its root. The continuing dominance of this norm depends to a large extent on how the Vietnamese party-state’s practical policy-making and policy implementation initiatives address the increasing tension between the supremacy of the CPV and other principles in the constitution.

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Copyright

Footnotes

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Researcher at the Institute for Legislative Studies in Ha Noi; PhD (UQ), MA (SOAS).

Footnotes

References

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1. 1959 Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (adopted 31 December 1959) [1959 Constitution].

2. In this case, rationality-based legitimacy refers to the Weberian rational-legal authority, which is the grundnorm for CPV leadership. It is the foundation for a legal order and the laws that have been enacted in it.

3. MARR, David, Vietnam in 1945: The Quest for Power (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1995) at 152-240 .

4. 1946 Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (adopted 9 November 1946).

5. FALL, Bernard, The Viet-Minh Regime: Government and Administration in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (New York: Institute of Pacific Relations, 1956) at 13-14 .

6. MARR, David, Vietnam: State, War, and Revolution (1945-1946) (Berkeley, California: UC Press, 2013) at 13 .

7. FALL, Bernard B, “The North Viet-Nam’s New Draft Constitution” (1959) 32(2) Pacific Affairs 178 at 178 .

8. SIDEL, Mark, The Constitution of Vietnam: A Contextual Analysis (Oxford and Portland, Oregon: Hart Publishing, 2009) at 27 .

9. 1936 Constitution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (adopted 5 December 1936).

10. 1959 Constitution, supra note 1, art 4.

11. LENIN, Vladimir I, “Report on the Unity Congress of the RSDLP: A Letter to the St Petersburg Workers” (1906), online: Marxists.org <https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1906/rucong/viii.htm>.

12. GILLESPIE, John, Transplanting Commercial Law Reform: Developing a ‘Rule of Law’ in Vietnam (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Publishing, 2006) at 78 .

13. The Statute of the Workers’ Party of Vietnam (adopted on 10 September 1960), art 10.

14. The Treaty had the signatures of L.I. Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU, and A.N. Kosygin, Chairman of the Council of the Ministers, on the USSR side and Le Duan, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPV, and Prime Minister Pham Van Dong on the SRV side.

15. 1978 Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the Soviet Union (signed 3 November 1978).

16. 1980 Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (adopted 19 December 1980).

17. 1992 Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (adopted 25 April 1992).

18. 2013 Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (adopted 28 November 2013).

19. Nguyễn Kiến Giang was a prominent intellectual and once a senior official of the CPV involved in the anti-party affairs in the mid-1960s. He was imprisoned for many years.

20. NGUYEN, Kiến Giang, “Suy tư 90–Bàn về sự lãnh đạo của Đảng [Reflection in 90—Discussion on the Party’s Leadership]” Tạp chí Khoa học và Tổ quốc [Science and the Nation Journal] (April 1990), online: Talawas <http://www.talawas.org/talaDB/showFile.php?res=6907&rb=0305>.

21. Phan Đình Diệu is a mathematics professor, and was also a member of the Vietnam Fatherland Front Central Committee Presidium in the early 1990s.

22. PHAN, Đình Diệu, “Phát biểu góp ý kiến về Dự thảo Hiến pháp [Speech on the Draft Constitution]” Diễn đàn của chúng ta [Our Forum] (12 March 1992), online: Diễn đàn của chúng ta <https://diendancuachungta.com/cac-de-nghi-gop-y-tu-chinh-hp/gop-y-kien-ve-du-thao-hien-phap-phan-dinh-dieu/>.

23. Sidel, supra note 8 at 128.

24. Tuong Vu attributes the persistence of the single-party rule to a number of factors, the most decisive of which being revolutionary violence. See Tuong VU, “The Persistence of Single-Party Dictatorships: The Case of Vietnam” (Working Papers Series, City University of Hong Kong, January 2012), 18-19.

25. SEARLE, John, The Construction of Social Reality (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1995) 27-28 .

26. Sidel, supra note 8 at 6.

27. NGUYỄN, Văn An, “Cựu Chủ tịch Quốc hội bàn việc sửa đổi Hiến pháp [Former Chairman of the National Assembly discusses the Constitutional amendments]” Tuần Việt Nam [Vietnam Weekly] (16 June 2010), online: Tuần Việt Nam <http://www.tuanvietnam.net/2010-06-24-cuu-chu-tich-quoc-hoi-ban-viec-sua-hien-phap>.

28. VŨ Mão, “Cần trở lại tinh thần Hiến pháp 1946 [The need to return to the spirit of the 1946 Constitution]” Vietnamnet (6 February 2013), online: Vietnamnet <http://vietnamnet.vn/vn/chinh-tri/108600/can-tro-lai-tinh-than-hien-phap-1946.html>.

29. “Góp ý sửa Hiến pháp: Phải có luật về sự lãnh đạo của Đảng [Contribution to the Constitutional Amendments: There Must be a Law on the Party’s Leadership]” VnEconomy (19 February 2013), online: VnEconomy <http://vneconomy.vn/20130219100153156P0C9920/gop-y-sua-hien-phap-phai-co-luat-ve-su-lanh-dao-cua-dang.htm>.

30. BUI, Hai Thiem, “Liberal Constitutionalism and the Socialist State in an Era of Globalisation: An Inquiry into Vietnam’s Constitutional Discourse and Power Structures” (2013) 2 The Global Studies Journal 49 .

31. Văn phòng Quốc hội [Office of the National Assembly (ONA)], Biên bản tổng hợp thảo luận tại hội trường ngày 16 tháng 11 năm 2012 [Minutes of Deliberation at the Plenary Session of the Fourth Meeting of the Thirteenth NA on the Morning of November 16, 2012]. (Hà Nội: IT Centre of the ONA, 2012).

32. HOANG, Xuân Phú, “Uẩn khúc trong Điều 4 Hiến pháp [Ambiguity in Article 4 of the Constitution]” (29 August 2013), online: Blog Hoàng Xuân Phú, <http://hpsc.iwr.uni-heidelberg.de/hxphu/index.php?page=readwriting&w=UanKhuatTrongDieu4HienPhap-20130829>.

33. See TƯƠNG, Lai, “Vietnam’s Angry Feet,” New York Times (6 June 2013), online: New York Times <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/07/opinion/vietnams-angry-feet.html?_r=0>; TƯƠNG Lai, “Nghĩ về hiện tượng Trần Độ [Reflections on the Tran Do Phenomenon]” (8 August 2013), online: Viet-studies <http://viet-studies.info/kinhte/TuongLai_HienTuongTranDo.htm>; NGUYEN, Trung, “Suy ngẫm về thời cuộc [Reflections on the Era]” (19 September 2013), online: Viet-studies <http://viet-studies.info/NguyenTrung/NguyenTrung_SuyNgamThoiCuoc.htm#VIII>; LE Hiếu Đằng, “Suy nghĩ trong những ngày nằm bịnh [Reflections during the Days of Illness]” Boxitvn (12 August 2013), online: Boxitvn <http://boxitvn.blogspot.com.au/2013/08/suy-nghi-trong-nhung-ngay-nam-binh.html>.

34. NGUYỄN, Trung, “Hiến pháp và những bất cập của Dự thảo sửa đổi [The Constitution and Problems with the Draft Amendments]” Boxitvn (23 January 2013), online: Boxitvn <http://www.viet-studies.info/NguyenTrung/NguyenTrung_DuThaoHienPhap.htm>.

35. TONG, Văn Công, “Thư gửi Hội nghị Trung ương 8: Đất nước đòi hỏi cải cách chính trị [Letter to the Eighth Plenum of the CPV Central Committee: The Country Requires Political Reform]” (Hà Nội: 30 September 2013).

36. Discursive power in this meaning refers to the capacity to affect and shape the practice and power relationships by language in a Foucauldian sense.

37. Hội đồng Giám mục Việt Nam [The Vietnam Episcopal Council], “Thư gửi Ủy ban Dự thảo sửa đổi Hiến pháp 1992 nhận định và góp ý sửa đổi Hiến pháp [Letter to the 1992 Constitution Amending Committee on Contributions to the Constitutional Amendments]” (1 March 2013), online: Hội đồng Giám mục Việt Nam <http://www.hdgmvietnam.org/thu-cua-hoi-dong-giam-muc-viet-nam-nhan-dinh-va-gop-y-sua-doi-hien-phap/4750.116.3.aspx>.

38. “Một số ý kiến về việc sửa đổi Hiến pháp [Some Ideas on the Constitutional Amendments]” Cùng Viết Hiến Pháp [Writing the Constitution Together] (1 April 2013), online: Cùng Viết Hiến Pháp <https://hienphap.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/ykien.pdf>.

39. Human Rights Watch, “Letter to Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung: Amended Constitution” (23 October 2013), online: Human Rights Watch <https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/10/22/letter-chairman-nguyen-sinh-hung-re-amended-vietnam-constitution>.

40. LEBOW, Richard Ned, “Classical Realism,” in Tim DUNNE, Milja KURKI & Steve SMITH, eds, International Relations Theories: Discipline and Diversity, 2d ed (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007) 52 at 58 .

41. VO, Thi Hao, “Sửa Hiến pháp: Cưỡng chế hay tái sinh [Amending the Constitution: Coerce or Reincarnate]” BBC Vietnamese (26 July 2011), online: BBC Vietnamese <http://www.bbc.com/vietnamese/vietnam/2011/07/110726_vothihao_constitution.shtml>.

42. NGUYEN, Thanh Tu, “Khẳng định vai trò lãnh đạo của Đảng trong Hiến pháp là hợp lý, hợp tình [Asserting the leadership role of the Party in the Constitution is both rational and emotional]” Quân đội nhân dân [People’s Army Newspaper] (17 February 2013), online: Quân đội nhân dân <http://www.qdnd.vn/qdndsite/vi-vn/61/43/chong-dien-bien-hoa-binh/khang-dinh-vai-tro-lanh-dao-cua-dang-trong-hien-phap-la-hop-ly-hop-tinh/229219.html>; TRUONG Giang Long, “Sự lãnh đạo đúng đắn, sáng tạo của Đảng là nhân tố quyết định mọi thắng lợi của cách mạng Việt Nam [The sound and innovative leadership by the Party is the determinant of all victories of the Vietnamese Revolution]” Công an nhân dân [People’s Police Newspaper] (29 January 2015), online: Công an nhân dân <http://cand.com.vn/thoi-su/Cao-Su-lanh-dao-dung-dan-sang-tao-cua-dang-la-nhan-to-quyet-dinh-moi-thang-loi-cua-Cach-mang-Viet-Nam-339942/>.

43. Nguyễn Phú Trọng made these comments in a televised speech at a meeting with officials of Vĩnh Phúc province on 25 February 2013.

44. VŨ Minh Giang, “Căn cứ đâu để lập chính đảng mới? [What are the grounds for establishing a new political party?]” BBC Vietnamese (17 August 2013), online: BBC Vietnamese <http://www.bbc.com/vietnamese/multimedia/2013/08/130817_vuminhgiang_on_new_party.shtml>.

45. Hoang, supra note 32.

46. ONA, supra note 31.

47. NGUYỄN Lệnh, “Đã có đủ căn cứ pháp lý để thành lập một đảng khác ngoài Đảng Cộng sản Việt Nam [There are sufficient legal grounds for establishing a new political party other than the Communist Party of Vietnam]” (30 August 2013), online: Ngoclinvugia’s Blog <https://ngoclinhvugia.wordpress.com/2013/08/30/da-co-du-can-cu-phap-ly-de-thanh-lap-mot-dang-khac-ngoai-dang-csvn-ls-nguyen-lenh/>.

48. 1957 Law on the Right to Form Associations (promulgated 20 May 1957).

49. Decree 45/2010/ND-CP on the Organization, Operation, and Management of Associations (adopted 21 April 2010).

50. TrẦn Vũ Hải, “Request to the National Assembly Standing Committee to comment on the issue of forming and participating in another political party other than the Communist Party” Boxitvn (23 August 2013), online: Boxitvn <http://boxitvn.blogspot.com/2013/08/ls-tran-vu-hai-gui-uy-ban-thuong-vu.html>.

51. Ibid.

52. UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment No 25 on the right to participate in public affairs, voting rights and the right of equal access to public service (Art 25), (Fifty-seventh session, 1996), UN Doc CCPR/C/21/Rev 1/Add 7 (1996), para 27.

53. Decree 88/2003/ND-CP dated 30/7/2003 issued by the Government on the Organization, Operation and Management of Associations (promulgated 30 July 2003).

54. Law on Access to Information (promulgated 6 April 2016, effective 1 July 2018).

55. Out of the 2014 total estimated budget of US$48 billion, the estimated expenditure of the CPV Central Office alone accounted for more than 2 percent.

* Researcher at the Institute for Legislative Studies in Ha Noi; PhD (UQ), MA (SOAS).

Constitutionalizing Single Party Leadership in Vietnam: Dilemmas of Reform

  • Thiem Hai BUI (a1)

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