Vietnam officials to face yearly confidence vote

November 23, 2012 - 6:51:37 am

HANOI: Communist Vietnam has passed a new law requiring top elected officials including the prime minister to win the support of parliament in annual votes for the first time, state media said yesterday.

From 2013 top officials, from the president to Supreme Court judges, will have to face an annual confidence vote at the 500-member communist-dominated National Assembly, the official Vietnam News Agency reported yesterday.

Officials who do not win more than 50 percent of the vote for two consecutive years will be asked to step down from their positions, the report said, adding that results from the annual vote will be made public.

But experts say the confidence vote is unlikely to be more than a symbolic gesture as real political and decision-making power rests with the Communist Party and not parliament.

The new resolution comes a week after Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung faced down an unprecedented call from a lawmaker to resign. 

Dung told parliament last week he would stay in his position as long as the Communist Party asked him to.

The 62-year-old former central bank governor escaped punishment at a key party meeting last month over a string of scandals that have tainted the country’s leadership.

But in an attempt to deflect increasing criticism, the party issued a rare self-rebuke and Dung apologised for corruption, inefficiencies and major losses at state-run giants such as shipbuilder Vinashin.

The growing pressure comes as Vietnam grapples with slowing economic growth, resurgent inflation, falling foreign direct investment and rising fears about toxic debts in the fragile banking system.

Dung, whose second five-year term was approved by the communist-controlled parliament in July 2011, is said to have become the country’s most powerful prime minister ever.

The National Assembly -- where 90 percent of deputies are communist party members -- has also gradually become more outspoken. In 2010 a lawmaker called in vain for Dung to face a confidence vote after the near-collapse of Vinashin.