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Tuesday, 02 February 2016 10:20
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70 years of building a State of, by and for the people

(LLCT) - Over the last 70 years, Vietnamese people under the leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) have won great victories in the resistant wars against French and American invaders, have unified the country, have carried out the renovation and have gained historic achievements in the cause of national building and defense. The Vietnamese State has been strengthened and developed to become the socialist law-ruled State of, by, and for the people.

1. Achievements and limitations as to the building of a State of, by and for the people   

Concerning awareness

There has been an improved awareness of the organization and operation of the state apparatus, especially during the 30 years of the renovation cause.

The Party’s awareness of the genuine democratic nature of the State has always been consistent. The Vietnamese State is a political organization which belongs to people, organized by them and is led by the Party. Its power is exercised by the people. The State’s responsibility is to engage people in its building and management. The people have the right to dismiss those who are not qualified, to examine, supervise, comment on, and evaluate state organizations, employees and civil servants.

As it started the renovation cause, the CPV realized an urgent need to establish a socialist law-rule State of, by and for the people in an effort to inherit and adapt Marxist - Leninist points of view and Ho Chi Minh’s thought on a new model of state and selectively learn from the cultural, intellectual and experiential quintessence of humankind while taking into consideration the country’s history and culture and requirements of its renovation cause.

The principle that the Party leads the State is consistently expressed in different versions of the Constitution and has been explained in greater detail. It is a response to people’s demand for a single ruling Party which lead the law-ruled State, which is stipulated in Article 4 of the 2013 Constitution.

Over 70 years of building the revolutionary Vietnamese State, the position and role of the National Assembly have been better understood. The National Assembly is the highest level organization representing the people and State power. It exercises the rights to make the constitution and law, decides the country’s important issues and supervises the State’s activities.

The 2013 Constitution further clarifies the tasks and rights of the President of State (previously called Chairman of the State Council).

The position, role and function of the Government have also been more clearly and fully understood. The Government is the highest level State administrative body, exercises the right to enforce the law, is the National Assembly’s executive organization and ensures State administration is centralized, consistent, smooth, clean, professional, efficient and effective. There has been a better understanding of the tasks and rights of people’s councils and people’s committees at various levels. Empowerment of local authorities has been increasingly visible. The quality, efficiency and effectiveness of people’s councils and people’s committees at various levels have improved.

The position, role and function of judicial bodies have been more correctly understood, meeting the requirement for building a democratic, clean, strong and fair judicial system and protecting justice, human rights and the legitimate rights and interests of citizens and other entities in the society. The 2013 Constitution understands and acknowledges the principles underlying judicial activities in a law-ruled State such as independent judge trials, conformity to the law and only the law, contestation in trials, the presumption of innocence and lawyers’ participation in the beginning of legal procedures.

Recruitment of capable, qualified civil servants has been almost fully understood and has always been underway. In particular, the Party is well aware of the danger of bureaucracy, corruption and wastefulness among its staffs and considers them to be enemies of socialism and threats to the fate of itself, the State and the whole political system.

The above-mentioned new awareness is an important step forward in the organization and operation of the State.

However, awareness of the need to build a State of, by and for the people generally remains limited, which has affected the design of the State’s activities and their implementation. Although the 2013 Constitution does supplement articles on the nature of democracy, people’s sovereignty and people’s exercise of State power, the implementation of such articles shows that they are not clear, complete or systematic enough. As a result, the formulation of legal documents concerning the organization and operation of the State apparatus has been faced with difficulties. Democracy and people’s sovereignty have not been profoundly or fully understood. There are still signs of underestimation and formalistic promotion of democracy. There has been no research into development of direct democracy where people could examine, supervise and debate the Party’s guidelines and the State’s policies and laws.

There has not been a full understanding or convincing explanation of some basic theoretical issues relating to the socialist law-ruled State such as ensuring the supremacy of the Constitution and ultimacy of the law in social life. There remains a certain level of perplexity as to the fact that although state power is unified, it is delegated, coordinated and controlled amongst legislative, law-enforcing and judicial state bodies and especially as to interdependency amongst power branches.

There has not been a thorough account of the authority and responsibility of the ruling Party and its relation with the State and of the building of the law-ruled State. The awareness of the new roles and functions of the State amid the development of the socialist-oriented market economy and international integration remains somewhat irrelevant or unsuitable. The delegation of power within the state apparatus and the roles of social organizations in relation to the State, the Fatherland Front and its affiliated socio-political organizations have not been explored adequately or understood correctly. Although there are guidelines concerning the roles of the Fatherland Front and socio-political organizations as inspectors, supervisors and challengers and there are mechanisms for people examining and supervising activities of State bodies, the implementation of these guidelines and mechanisms has been slow and there has not been a consistent understanding of them.

Concerning practice         

The organization and operation of the State over the last 70 years, especially the 30 years of renovation, shows that people’s sovereignty and their exercise of State power have been established and implemented in reality. The constitution and law stipulate democracy rights in politics, economics and other fields, which has creating a legal basis for the State and population to practice democracy. The promulgation of laws on grassroots democracy has raised public awareness about it and has given them greater autonomy in their own lives. There has been marked progress in the practice of democracy amongst State bodies, particularly the National Assembly and people’s councils at various levels. This has been a response to public demands and expectations.

Since the renovation policy was started 30 years ago, there has been progress in organization and operation of the State, National Assembly, Government and local authorities.

The National Assembly has seen marked innovation in its operation and organizational structure, from organization of elections to fulfillment of its functions and its members’. Its roles as the ultimate powerhouse of the country and highest level representative of the population have become clearer. Its power has become more substantial in reality. It has performed better as a law-making, supervisory body and one which decides on the country’s important issues. Its activities have been more democratic and in closer touch with the country’s realities so it has made better informed decisions on matters of national importance.  

The Government, which was organized to suit wartime conditions and the centrally planned, subsidized economic system, has been radically restructured. It has increased its macroeconomic management, law-making and policy-making capacity. Administration has been considerably reformed in terms of institution, apparatus, staff and public finance. Management and administration by the central government and local authorities have been innovated and have become more efficient and effective. Local authorities have been reorganized so they can work more efficiently.

The functions, tasks and modes of operation of judicial bodies have been more clearly clarified. People’s Courts and People’s Procuracies have undergone reasonable reorganization.

Existing laws have been constantly revised and supplemented while a good number of new laws have been made. This is to respond to the socialist-oriented market economy and meet requirements of managing the society by law, protecting human rights, integrating into the international community and safeguarding the country in the new situation.

Succession planning has been carried out. Civil servants have been given training in politics, state management, information technology and foreign languages. Basically, they are able to meet requirements of the new mechanism. They have become more dynamic and professional.

Although the organization and operation of the State have seen marked improvement and progress, there remain certain limitations and problems including those caused by history and the old mechanism and those arising from the shift to the market mechanism.

The practice of democracy and promotion of people’s autonomy are sometimes formalistic in some places. There remains a gap between democracy in theory with that in practice. The relation between democracy and discipline and order in the organization and operation of the State is far from adequate. There is still a lack of democracy, discipline and order.

The legal system is not consistent or complete and its quality is not high. A lot of legal documents overlap each other. Many of them have been issued but are not enforced awaiting decrees or circulars detailing their implementation.

The administrative reform is generally slow and under standard. In particular, administrative procedures remain complicated or troublesome while red tape, lack of responsibility and proactivity, and corruption are serious, causing public discontent and serving as a setback to the process of renovation, development and integration.      

The organization and operation of the National Assembly and people’s councils remain limited. The efficiency and effectiveness of their supervisory activities are far from high. The organization and operation of people’s councils at various levels are somewhat unclear or unsuitable for their functions, tasks and roles as people’s representative offices and local representatives of State power. In many places, people’s councils are mere formalities and their roles are not even clear.

The organization and operation of the government still contain problems, especially when it comes to coordination between ministries in designing legal documents, making laws and formulating strategies and plans, as well as planning for development of industries and sectors. There is no suitable regulation concerning joint management between industries and sectors. Some tasks overlap while others are not carried out by any organization at all. The sense of proactivity and responsibility among some State management organizations remains very limited. The combination of industry- and territory-based management is not consistently understood, therefore ineffective. Little research has been devoted to the organization of municipal, rural and island governments. The reform of the judicial sector is slow compared to that of the legislative and law-enforcing ones.

A portion of civil servants have limited capabilities. They are not proactive, professional or responsible enough at work. Ethics and accountability are not taken into account, causing civil servants’ irresponsibility upon people’s requests or interests. All this has undermined public trust in the Party, State and the whole system. Regulations concerning public affairs, statuses and responsibilities of heads of organizations and accountability of State bodies have yet to be detailed so they could be applied to real-life situations.

2. Some lessons to be learnt          

From the achievements as well as limitations as to the theoretical and practical awareness of the building of the State over the last 70 years, the following lessons could be drawn:

Firstly, it is essential to increase research into the socialist law-ruled State of, by and for the people. Such research must explore its nature, characteristics, principles and model and pay special attention to the principles of people’s sovereignty, people exercising State power, delegation of power and organization of the law-enforcing and judicial sectors, issues relating to functions, tasks, scopes of authority, responsibilities of civil servants and heads of State bodies, human rights and the ultimacy of the law. The above-mentioned fundamental issues must be studied in order to achieve a consistent understanding of them, apply them and translate them into laws on the organization and operation of the State. 

Secondly, the state apparatus and civil servants have to be organized and managed in such a way they do everything they can to serve people and bring them happiness. This must be considered to be not only an objective but also a driving force behind the development of the State and civil servants. State bodies from central to communal or ward levels and their staff members must respect the people, stay in close touch with them and look after their interests if the State is to receive their love, trust, respect and protection. The 70-year realities show that wherever and whenever the authorities manage to do so, they become strong, people’s living standards improve and people are convinced and encouraged.

Thirdly, State power is to be controlled. State power is in truth people’s power which is delegated to state bodies and civil servants. If there is no effective mechanism for controlling the exercise of state power, this power will degenerate or be misused and people’s sovereignty will be lost. There must be internal mechanisms for supervising the state apparatus, the National Assembly, people’s councils, state inspection and state auditing. There must be cross-inspection amongst the legislative, law-enforcing and judicial sectors. There must also be external mechanisms for supervising the State apparatus, Party, Fatherland Front and socio-political organizations. Such supervision should be carried out by the people and the mass media. Realities show if such mechanisms, particularly external ones, are encouraged, they will help to ensure decent activities of state bodies and civil servants.

Fourthly, the law must be strictly obeyed. In a law-ruled State, every state body, civil servant, social or economic organization, Party organization and citizen must strictly follow the law. The bottom line is how to enforce the law in everyday lives. There are strategic issues that need to be dealt with. For example, law education must be introduced to the national syllabus. At the same time, there must be appropriate ways to disseminate the law among the public and educate them to respect it. More importantly, strict punishment must be inflicted on those who break the law.

Fifthly, personnel must be considered the important work. As a matter of fact, whether the country can develop sustainably or is strong enough to fight evil plots by hostile forces, it must rely on staff members of the political system, first and foremost the Party and State. Recruitment of civil servants must be well coordinated. Official titles of the state apparatus, especially heads of state bodies, must be clearly described in terms of functions, tasks, scopes of authority and responsibilities. There must be mechanisms for holding civil servants responsible for incidents or matters which fall within their purview. It is necessary to educate civil servants to have a good grasp of Ho Chi Minh’s teachings and to not be indifferent to people’s needs. “If people are hungry, the Party and Government are to blame; if people are cold, the Party and Government are to blame; if people are ignorant, the Party and Government are to blame; if people are ill, the Party and Government are to blame”(1).

Finally, bureaucracy, corruption and wastefulness and other negative practices of the state apparatus are to be prevented and controlled as the law-ruled State of, by and for the people is being built. These vices are extremely dangerous because they hinder or distort the State’s sound guidelines, nullify renovation policies, undermine public trust in the Party and State and threaten the survival of the Party, State, the whole political system and society. Although there have been drastic measures aimed at prevent and controlling these illnesses, results have yet to meet people’s expectations. There must be more concerted efforts in doing so. It is necessary to establish organizations specializing in controlling corruption. Such organization must be powerful and strong enough to prosecute those who are corrupt. They must rely on public strength in order to perform well on this front.

In celebration of the 70th anniversary of the revolutionary State, it is important that the country’s achievements and limitations be accurately evaluated. Lessons must be drawn and solutions put forward in order to overcome weaknesses, further innovate the organization and operation of the State and build the Vietnamese State into a socialist law-ruled one which is really of, by and for the people.

 

Assoc. Prof., Dr. Nguyen Van Manh

Institute of the State and Law

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

 

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