Vietnam has blocked more than 100 independent candidates from running in its upcoming parliamentary election. The independent candidates received support in local regime-backed “candidate-voter meetings,” but the Vietnamese government forbade their candidacies nonetheless.
“The government is threatened by the independence of this group of men and women, because it wants a rubber-stamp parliament, not a pluralistic legislature,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of HRF. “Without repressing ideological diversity, the regime cannot maintain its dictatorial rule,” added Halvorssen.
Phan Van Bach, a taxi driver who tried to stand for election, stated that the authorities used threats and other tactics to force him and other independent candidates out of the election. Mai Khoi, a pop singer and activist who also tried to run independently, said that the Fatherland Front, a Communist Party-controlled organization, screens out independent candidates without regard for their popularity among voters.
Vietnam has a constitution that mandates “[c]itizens . . . upon reaching the age of twenty-one, have the right to stand for election to the National Assembly and the People’s Councils.” However, given the Communist Party and the Fatherland Front’s control over the selection process, independent candidates have no chance of making it to election day on the ballot card.
In an attempt to fully control parliament while giving it an appearance of plurality, the government endorses a number of supposedly independent candidates. Democracy activists said that these “fake” independent candidates passed easily through the selection process with the backing of the ruling party.
“Vietnam would like to present the illusion that it carries out democratic elections, but the truth remains that it suppresses any kind of genuine competition in its elections. If Vietnam is sincere in its efforts of holding a truly democratic election, it must allow independent candidates on the ballots,” said Garry Kasparov, chairman of HRF’s international council.
Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.