Under a new law just passed in Vietnam, communist officials in government – including the prime minister – will face an annual vote of confidence by the country’s 500-strong National Assembly that could help shore up confidence in the government and bureaucracy.
The move is a welcomed one, given Vietnam’s latest tussle with corruption which has hampered its economy and raised doubts about the tenure of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung due, at least in part, to his close associations with dubious business leaders in companies like ship builder Vinashin.
According to the Vietnamese News Agency (VNA) the law covers top officials including Supreme Court judges and officials. The officials will be asked to resign if two-thirds of lawmakers express low confidence in that official in any given year, or less than 50% of lawmakers give their support to an official for two consecutive years.
If the official chooses not to resign, than the law allows parliament to hold a vote of no confidence, upon which the leader will be forced out of office.
The first vote will take place next year and should provide some additional accountability for a one-party state that often appears to be anachronistic and out of step for a country that’s struggling to find its place in the 21st century.
However, real power inside Vietnam resides within Communist Party not the Parliament and it remains to be seen how effective in practice the vote becomes in removing officials.
The Vietnamese have gone against the regional economic tide. Its economy has buckled under extreme inflation, enormous debt and business collapses, particularly in the state sector where companies enjoy government handouts and privileges.
In 2011, Transparency International ranked Vietnam a lowly 112 out of 183 on its perception of corruption index.
Other senior positions to face the confidence vote include president, vice president, cabinet officials, and the chairman and deputy of the National Assembly, among others.
Dung has been the prime minister since 2006 and was re-elected last July but found himself in deep trouble during an extended meeting of the all-powerful Central Committee a month ago.