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Awareness of democracy and democratization process in Vietnam in the renovation period: Actual situation and solution

(LLCT) - In the renovation process, the Communist Party of Vietnam has become more and more aware of the role of democracy and has focused on building the institution and regulations as well as renovating the mechanisms and policies to ensure people’s mastership is better and better. The democratization process in all fields of social life has created a great motivation for the renovation cause. However, it has not met the practical requirements; there have not been many fully solved in the awareness of democracy and democracy promotion in the condition of the only ruling Party. That reality requires the Party to further supplement new awareness and propose the solutions to promote the democratization process of Vietnam.

Keywords: democracy, democratization in Vietnam, renovation period, Communist Party of Vietnam.

1. The Party’s awareness of democracy and the democratization process of Vietnam in the renovation period

The 6th Congress of the Party created a turning point in the democratization process of all fields of social life, especially economic democratization after drawing the first lesson: in all of its activities, the Party had to grasp the thought of taking people as the root and building and promoting people’s mastership(1). However, at that time, the Party still inherited the concepts “collective mastership” and a “collective mastership regime” from the 4th and 5th Congresses and asserted that our Party considered socialist collective mastership to be the nature of the socialist democratic regime(2). The 1991 Platform approved at the 7th Congress asserted that the first feature of socialism in the country is that it was mastered by the “working people” and stressed: “The nature of the renovation and improvement of the political system of the country is to build the socialist democracy. It is both the goal and the motivation of the social renovation”(3). The Congress also raised the issue of how to fully ensure democracy with the condition of one ruling party.

At the 8th Congress (1996), the Party pointed out people’s mastership methods including mastership through the representative and direct mastership, aiming at the goal of “rich people, a strong country, and a fair, and civilized society”(4).

At the 9th Congress (2001), the Party asserted that “democracy” was a goal for the general system of the country of “national independence in association with socialism, rich people, a strong country, and a fair, democratic, and civilized society”(5). On summarizing 20 years of renovation and determining the features of socialism in Vietnam, the 10th Congress considered “rich people, a strong country, and a fair, democratic, and civilized society” as the general feature, and the second feature was changed to the motto “mastered by the people”(6) instead of the phrase “mastered by the working people” as determined in the 1991 Platform. This change removed class prejudice, which had hindered the construction of the great national unity bloc, and manifested the new guideline of the Party to attract overseas Vietnamese communities as well as to promote the role of entrepreneurs and private economic components.

At the 11th Congress, there was a new advance in the Party’s awareness of democracy as it gained a new position in the goal of “rich people, a strong country, and a democratic, fair, and civilized society”(7). In the socio-economic development strategy for the 2011 - 2020 period, the Party clarified the guideline to promote direct democracy(8) at the grassroots and national levels.

With a clearer awareness of the role and strength of democracy, at the 12th Congress, “socialist democracy” became an element of the Congress theme and the title of the Political Report. To enhance people’s “mastership”, the 12th Congress asserted that the people were entitled “to participate in all the phases of the process to make the decision related to the benefit and life of the people”(9). For the first time, people’s supervision was clarified in the document of the Congress as an important measure to practice democracy. The document also specified the necessity to implement “the regulations on supervising Party members as the cadres managed by the Politburo and Secretariat” well(10). With this content, the Party expressed the determination to “rely on the people” to rectify the Party as the top personnel.

Thus, for nearly 35 years of renovation, the Party was increasingly aware of the role of democracy and the necessity to build the institution, improve the regulations, and renovate the mechanism and policy to ensure people’s mastership in practice. As a result, the democratization process during the renovation period gained the following achievements:

Firstly, people’s mastership has been gradually legalized. The 6th, 7th, and 8th Congresses also asserted that the legalization of people’s rights and establishment of the effective institutions and regulations to implement them are the important contents of the democratization process. This was the first work because democracy and law were the two sides of a unified whole: law ensures democracy to come true, and when law was in existence, democracy had to be implemented within the framework of the law. During the renovation period, the Constitution was amended three times (1992, 2001, and 2013); various codes have been promulgated, amended and supplemented many times such as the Criminal Law, Civil Law, Labor Law, Enterprise Law, Cooperative Law, Investment Law, Land Law, Education Law, Bidding Law, Bankruptcy Law, Press Law, Publication Law, Intellectual Properties Law, Social Insurance Law,  and Health Insurance Law, among others. Particularly, on February 18, 1998, the 8th Politburo promulgated Directive No. 30 on building and implementing grassroots democracy regulations because it was “where all the guidelines and policies of the Party and State and where people’s democracy was implemented the most directly and widely”(11). In April 2007, the Standing Committee of the National Assembly passed the Ordinance on democracy in communes, wards, and towns to create the legal basis for implementing the regulation “people know, people discuss, people do, and people check” set by the Party.

Secondly, together with the renovation process, the democratization process has taken place in all social fields.

Economically, the bureaucratic and subsidized economic model was gradually replaced with the socialist oriented market economy (although that name was officially used at the 9th Congress). Economics is the material support for democracy and the democratization process. The nature of a market economy is to socialize all the social resources to create properties and suitable beneficial relationships, so the multi-component economy with various forms of possession is recognized by the Party. In the market economy, people are free to trade what the law does not prohibit, and they are encouraged to enrich legally; even Party members can now participate in the private economy. The great impetus brought by democracy in economics has helped liberate resources within the people and move our country out of the socio-economic crisis and off the list of poor countries.

Politically, that the political renovation was carried out synchronously with economic renovation led to the democratization of the political system. The first was democracy promotion in the Party as the widespread premise for the whole society. From the 6th to 12th Congresses, the Party stressed the necessity to change the leadership mode, and the Party led mostly with the lines rather than encroach the other elements in the political system. Voting with redundancy, piloting to directly vote the secretary and deputy secretary at the grassroots Party congress, and the introduction of the questioning regulations in the Party showed that democracy in the Party was gradually improved.

The Platform on national construction from the transitional period to socialism (supplemented and amended in 2011) asserted that building the socialist law-ruled State of Vietnam was a feature and basic direction to build socialism in the country. Accordingly, the State undertook the role of setting up the legal corridor and macro management, while production and business management belonged to enterprises. The national administration gradually followed the direction of the serving and developmental state. The National Assembly not only played a role as a legislative agency but also better implemented the role of policy supervision and criticism. The public question and answer activities in the sessions of the National Assembly and vote of confidence for the titles approved by it and People’s Councils manifested the democratic spirit clearly. The operations of the Court and Procuracy also had a lot of renovations such as improving the role of lawyers and proceedings in the court to mitigate mistakes.

The introduction and implementation of “the social supervision and criticism regulations of the Vietnamese Fatherland Front and socio-political unions” and “the regulations on comment contribution of the Vietnamese Fatherland Front, socio-political unions and people to building the Party and government” helped improve the role of the Front and socio-economic organizations. The birth of many social and vocational organizations basically met the diverse association need of the people. On the other hand, the supervision of the National Front and the organizations made the State more and more transparent in their operation.

As for the people, the grassroots democracy regulations and grassroots democracy implementation ordinance helped implement people’s mastership in practice. The 2013 Constitution reserved 1 chapter with 37 articles to stipulate human rights and citizen rights. Freedoms of faith, religion, and equality of the ethnic groups were legalized. There were also certain progresses in the social fairness and equality.

The democratization process was implemented in the socio-cultural field. The socialization process in the medical and educational activities was boosted. The copyright issues were appreciated and better protected. The freedom of artistic creation and social responsibility increase of the artists was stressed by the Party. The types and number of books, newspapers, and magazines flourished, making an important contribution to the intellectual and cultural life.

Generally evaluating, the democratization process in all fields of life in the country created a tremendous motivation for the renovation cause. However, democracy in all fields should be further improved.             

In the field of politics, the “diseases” of authoritarianism, dictatorship, formal democracy or extreme democracy (democracy that did not go along with discipline and law) still existed at all levels, especially seriously at the grassroots level. Because the administrative apparatus was very cumbersome and unclear of functions and tasks, the cadres could easily contend with others for merits and blame others for mistakes. The administrative procedure was lengthy, which caused annoyance to people and enterprises. The supervising and criticizing functions of the National Front and people’s organization were still vague. The phases in cadre work were not transparentized, so the phenomena of “bribery for position, power, planning, and rotation” were still common. Because there had not been any mechanisms to control power, many cadres turned the power entrusted by the people into personal power.

In the field of economics, the information of land planning, project bidding, etc. was not transparent. The “crony businesses” of officials were rather popular, and this made the economy develop in a distorted and unequal manner. People’s complaints (mostly related to land compensation in the urbanization process) were solved slowly. Corruption was an obvious democracy violation when the properties of the people were appropriated by certain authorities, but this phenomenon has been increasingly serious and complicated up to now. The equality between the economic components, especially private economy, was not ensured in practice; there was a big gap between the living standards of the people in rural, remote, and offshore regions and those

in cities.

In the socio-cultural field, copyright violation remained common, and there were negative phenomena in medical and educational services, especially examination work, which caused bad opinions in society. The works of security and social welfare were not ensured, etc. Thus, there was a rather big gap between the awareness of democracy and the law institutions and between law and law enforcement.

2. Solutions to promoting the democratization process in Vietnam

Firstly, it is necessary to improve the awareness of the cadres, Party members, and people about the democracy issue. The cadres in the public apparatus must be clearly conscious that the power “held” by the Party and “grasped” by the State is actually of the people, and that power is trusted by the people to serve them. Hence, it is necessary to change the awareness from the State having the right to bestow according to an “ask-give mechanism” to the State being responsible for serving the people.

It is also necessary to frankly admit the actual democratic situation in Vietnam. The use of the phrase “promoting socialist democracy” can easily lead to the misunderstanding that we have had full institutions, regulations, and policies and that their use should just be promoted. In fact, democracy in our country still has many defects. It is also necessary to determine that acquisition of experience in practicing democracy from the countries around the world is necessary while our Party asserts the determination to build the socialist oriented market economy and the socialist law-ruled State in Vietnam. This requires studying the non-state democratic forms managed by the people to overcome the limitations of the state in democratic enforcement. It is necessary to interpret clearly and persuasively in terms of theory in the condition whether one ruling party can build a socialist oriented civil society(12) or not. Only when there is unity in awareness can we practice or counter the distorting views of the hostile forces. Generally, there are still a lot of democratic issues that should be understood more comprehensively and deeply.

Secondly, law is the support of democracy, so it is essential to enhance the construction of the legal corridor for democratic enforcement in the Party and the whole society. Although Article 4 of the 2013 Constitution asserted the fact that the Party had to be under the supervision of the people, take responsibility before the people for its decisions, and operate within the framework of Constitution, the Constitution was still the “original law”. Only by concretizing it with codes can we control power and pave the way for the development of democracy. Law on Demonstration and Law on Associations should be promulgated soon because Article 25 of the 2013 Constitution specifies that citizens have the right to “form associations and demonstrate”(13). In a multi-ethnic nation like Vietnam, the Ethnic Law should be provided to ensure the practical enforcement of the principle that “the ethnic groups are united, equal, and mutually supportive”. To improve the social supervision and criticism activities of the National Front, Law on Social Criticism should be provided because there are currently no sanctions forcing the state agencies to acquire comments or explain the criticized things. Fighting against corruption is democracy enforcement, so it is necessary to promulgate the Law on Property Listing because transparentizing properties is an “effective” tool to control “greedy officials” and create the basis for recovering the corrupted properties.

Thirdly, the democratization process requires staff organization and personnel work renovation. When democracy in the Party plays a “nuclear” role, the Party must become an example of democratic culture. The Party must enhance dialogue with the people, especially intellectuals, and listen to their comments. “Monopolizing the truth,” imposing thought, and “applying a view” to the criticizing opinions without basis obstructs the democratization process of the country. To avoid the phenomena of “bribery for a position,” it is important to transparentize personnel work, further renovate the voting work, promote nomination work, respect people’s evaluations of the cadres, and enhance the exemplary role of the head.

Fourthly, it is necessary to strengthen examination, inspection, and communication works to make timely prevention of the anti-democratic phenomena and popularize the good methods and examples. On the other hand, the power of the inspection, examination, and press agencies is so great that struggle against negative phenomena should be carried out by the agencies dealing with negative phenomena.

Finally, when democracy is the “treasure” of the people, proper institutions and sanctions must set up to actualize the criticizing role and responsibility of the National Front and socio-political organizations. The dependence on the state budget causes difficulties for these organizations to accomplish their criticizing role and responsibilities, so to find a mechanism for it is a matter to consider. It is also important to boost the self-governing model of the residential community on the basis of conventions and village regulations that do not violate the law. On the other hand, the phenomena of “excessive” democracy or use of democracy to harm national benefits, which in fact belong to the people, must be prevented.

The nature of a democracy does not depend on having one party or many parties; it depends on whose benefit the ruling party presents and what purpose the state power is used. However, the risk of arbitrariness and authoritarianism of the only party is real. In order to overcome such risk, the ruling Party must follow the Constitution and law, promote democracy in the Party, and have real attachment to the people. When the benefit of the people is the measurement of truth, the most effective practice of democracy, anti-bureaucracy, and anti-corruption is the full construction and operation of the institutions and regulations to ensure that all the powers belong to the people, ensure the benefits of the people, and create favorable conditions for each subject to promote their creativity.

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Endnotes:

(1), (2) CPV: Documents of the 6th National Congress, Truth Publishing House, Hanoi, 1987, p.29, 209.

(3) CPV: Documents of the 7th National Congress, Truth Publishing House, 1991, p.125.

(4) CPV: Documents of the 8th National Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 1996, p.80.

(5) CPV: Documents of the 9th National Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2001, p.85-86.

(6) CPV: Documents of the 10th National Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2006, p.68.

(7), (8) CPV: Documents of the 11th National Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2011, p.70, 100.

(9), (10) CPV: Documents of the 12th National Congress, National Political Publishing House, Office of the Party Central Committee, Hanoi, 2016, p.169, 170.

(11) Directive No. 30 - CT/TW of the Politburo dated February 18th, 1998 on building and implementing the grassroots democracy regulations.

(12) Le Huu Nghia: Practice and promotion of democracy over 30 years of renovation, printed in: Marxism - Leninism, Ho Chi Minh Thought and the Renovation Work in Vietnam, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2017, p.714.

(13) Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2014, p.18.

Assoc. Prof., Dr. Tran Thi Minh Tuyet

Academy of Journalism and Communication

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