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HANOI: When Vietnam’s communist leaders asked for public comment on their plan to amend the country’s constitution they did not anticipate unleashing an unprecedented debate on the party’s monopoly on power.
What was supposed to be a ritualistic consultation has morphed into a fierce open discussion on topics like human rights and land ownership on everywhere from state television to dissident blogs.
The furore started when 72 academics submitted a petition in January through the National Assembly as part of the consultation process, calling for multiparty democracy, respect for human rights, private land ownership and an apolitical army that served the people not the party.
They also called for the abolition of Article 4 of the constitution, which protects the party’s power, and for a separation of powers between the legislative, executive and judicial authorities — revolutionary demands in the one-party state.
“Vietnamese from all walks of life, including party members, are calling for the removal of Article 4. It is necessary for people and for the party,” said prominent dissident Nguyen Thanh Giang, one of those who signed the petition.
By guaranteeing the party’s supremacy, Article 4 has “led to corruption and abuse of power,” and allowed the unaccountable leadership to become “removed from reality and an obstacle to Vietnam’s development,” he added. Nearly 6,000 people have signed the online petition so far. Public consultation on reforms ends on March 31. Afp