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Practice of promoting democracy in Vietnam at present: Status quo & Solutions
12/2/2020 9:30' Send Print
General Secretary, President Nguyen Phu Trong meets with voters in Ba Dinh, Hoan Kiem, and Tay Ho districts. Photo: VNA
The results of exercising and promoting socialist democracy

The 6th Party Congress (1986) raised four major lessons, one of which is: “In all its activities, the Party must comprehend the spirit “people are the roots”, build and develop the working people’s mastery” (1). The 6th Congress’ documents emphasized that “to eliminate misconceptions that consider the mass work is only a method of organization to mobilize the masses in implementing guidelines and policies. Regarding the guidelines that directly relate to people’s life on both national and local scale, it is necessary to hold referendums before any decision is made.” The issue of promoting democracy had been clearly mentioned from the 8th to 10th Congress.

The 11th Party Congress (Jan 2011) pointed out: “Continue to construct and complete socialist democracy, ensure that all state power belongs to the people; all guidelines of the Party, policies and legislation of the State are for the interests of the people; cadres and public employees must fulfill their assigned responsibilities and duties, respect the people, and be devoted to the people… There must be concrete mechanisms for the people to exercise their direct mastery in reality…

Promote democracy, heighten citizens’ responsibilities, social discipline and rules; criticize and strictly punish the acts of violation of the people’s right to mastery…” (2). The issue of promoting democracy was asserted in the renew of the Party’s method of leadership in the 12th Congress (Jan 2016): “Continue to review practice and research theories on ruling party, clearly identify the purpose, the method, the content and the conditions of ruling; the issue of promoting democracy under the condition of a unique party in power; threats that need to be prevented for the ruling party” (3).

Regarding the promotion of democracy within the Party, the Platform on national construction in the period of transition to socialism (1991) identified that building a pure and strong Party in terms of politics, ideology and organization to be on par with its missions. To ensure that the Party fulfills its responsibility to lead the cause of the socialist revolution in our country, the Party must regularly renew, self-rectify, and strive to improve the intellectual level and leadership capacity. Uphold the tradition of solidarity and unity in the party, fully ensuring democracy and discipline in party activities.

The Communist Party of Vietnam and Uncle Ho have always determined that practicing democracy within the Party is decisive for the development of democracy in the organization and operation of the entire political system that is associated with democratizing the entire social life. Democracy results in social consensus, and social consensus creates new strength of great national unity. The Party has clearly defined the issue of promoting democracy. This ensures the true freedom of thought in the Party’s activities, encourages and respects independent and creative thinking, democratic discussions and debates. This is to promote the intellect of the entire Party, of each cadre and party member in preparing and implementing the Party’s Resolutions. In party congresses at all levels and the Party’s meetings, each party member is entitled to discuss, exchange, and participate in all affairs of the party, to criticize and question other officials and party members, to express, reserve or propose their opinions to superior agencies up until the National Party Congress. Resolutions and decisions of party organizations are discussed collectively and voted by majority. Elections in the Party are democratically conducted on the principle of secret vote without coercion and imposition. In particular, in recent terms, the practice of democracy in the Party continues to be supplemented by stricter rules and regulations. For example, Politburo reports their work and activities in advance of each plenum of the Party Central Committee; standing committees report their work and activities before each party committee session; party committees report to the party organizations or bodies that elected them; the schedule to conduct self-criticism and criticism must be specified; and mass organizations to criticize and vote on confidence of cadres and party members of highest to grassroots levels.

The promotion of democracy in state organizations has made many changes and progress. The National Assembly has made important innovations, from congressional elections to improvement of organizational structure and method of operation. The National Assembly has better fulfilled legislative function, supervision and decision-making on important national issues. The National Assembly’s operation has been increasingly democratic and effective. In order to improve the quality of legal documents, the National Assembly has various forms to attract comments, such as organizing conferences, seminars, and surveys…

Before and after each session, the National Assembly holds meetings with voters nationwide to grasp their thoughts, aspirations and proposals. After each meeting, reasonable recommendations were gathered, analyzed and proposed to the Government, so that the Government can direct the settlement in accordance with authority. In many recent sessions, the questioning and answering activities at the meetings of the National Assembly and the people's councils were actually vibrant, democratic, which promotes delegates’ responsibility, and gets recognized by the people nationwide. The National Assembly and the people's councils periodically organize votes of confidence for the titles elected by the National Assembly and the people's councils in the form of secret vote. The Government's promotion of democracy continues to have innovations in policy-making, macro management, directing and organizing the implementation. The consciousness and responsibility to institutionalize and concretize the Party's guidelines and resolutions into legal documents are heightened. In particular, authorities at all levels have made much progress in the reception of citizen, dialogues with citizens, and in solving complaints and denunciations of citizens.

The Party Committee democratically discussed the personnel organization work under the Party's decentralized management before conducting secret votes and making decisions by majority. The legislative, executive, judicial agencies all facilitate and promote the media’s functions of propaganda and public opinion orientation, such as printed newspapers, online newspapers, newspapers with audio and visual, etc.

Promoting democracy in socio-political organizations also made obvious progress, the institution of exercising the people’s democratic rights has been gradually established and concretized. Many documents that create legal bases for promoting the right to mastery of people of all strata have been approved by the National Assembly, such as the Law on the Vietnam Fatherland Front, the Law on Trade Union, the Youth Law, the Law on Referendum, etc. The democratic assurance of rights, obligations, interests and responsibilities of social entities are more specifically legislated and gradually implemented with effectiveness. A variety of guidelines and measures has promoted the active and proactive role of the people, accelerating the process of social democratization. The Standing Committee of the National Assembly promulgated the Ordinance No. 34/PT/UBTVQH on 20 April 2007, "On the exercise of democracy in communes, wards and towns", the Decree No. 04/NĐ/CP "On the exercise of democracy in the operation of state administrative agencies and public non-business units”, the Decree No. 60/NĐ-CP on 19 June 2013, “Detailing Clauses 3, Article 63 of the Labor Code on the exercise of workplace democracy at the grassroots level.” These documents have actively contributed to the process of promoting the people's right to mastery.

Currently, the Fatherland Front of Vietnam and socio-political organizations are actively implementing the function of social supervision and criticism, making constructive suggestions to build the Party and government clean and strong. Before each session of the National Assembly and the people's councils at all levels, the Front has gathered a relatively full range of recommendations from member organizations, opinions of voters nationwide to reflect to the National Assembly. People's councils at all levels have regularly supervised the government in receiving and solving legitimate recommendations of unions and associations’ members and voters.

Limitations and shortcomings

Besides the strengths, the implementation of promoting democracy is still limited and inadequate. The awareness of democracy and building socialist democracy is limited, incomplete and unsystematic. Some issues arising in reality have not been explained and clarified. The relationship between democracy, discipline and rules has not been properly handled. Developing forms of direct democracy has not been attracted adequate importance. The awareness of democracy of part of cadres, party members and the people is still partial, especially the practicing democracy within the party. Some people believe that in the Party's democracy, party members are entitled to freely speak and propagate their own opinions on the media. Particularly, some people want party organizations to be similar to clubs, in which all issues can be debated, discussed without respect for the principle of democratic centralism. On the contrary, part of party members rigidly understands democracy in the party, considering democracy as a means to achieve centralism. They do not want party organizations and members to independently think and conduct scientific research. They also identify science with politics, studied and discussed opinions with the Party’s lines and viewpoints. Some oppose democracy with centralism, or separate the promotion of party members’ ideas and creativity with the implementation of discipline and the preservation of solidarity and unity in the Party.

In the context of the socialist-oriented market economy development and international integration, in order to promote the initiative and independent thinking of cadres and party members, there must be regulations on regularly providing and updating information to cadres and party members, ensuring the party members’ right to information. As (members of) the unique ruling party, some cadres and party members are not fully aware of the principle of democratic centralism, which results in the abuse of power, arbitrariness, paternalism, and the eroded confidence of the people in the Party’s leadership. There has been a variety of forms and methods to gather public opinion, especially opinions of experts and scientists when drafting legal documents and other important projects. However, the opinion collecting were ineffective in some projects, leading to some low-quality legal documents that were not approved by the National Assembly, such as the North-South high-speed railway project, the three special economic zones project... Some legal documents that aim to create a legal basis for better promotion of people's right to mastery have not been timely developed, such as the Law on Social Supervision and Criticism. Some promulgated laws have come into effect but not widely implemented, for example, the Law on Referendum. This Law, taking effect since July 1, 2016, is an important legal document for people to directly express their will in deciding important issues of the country and in strengthening social solidarity and consensus. Some state administrative agencies and authorities at all levels have not effectively implemented legal documents on certain areas, such as planning, planning management, land management, natural resources, minerals, compensation, land clearance, resettlement...

The promotion of democracy in society is still limited, part of the people is still upset, which results in complicated complaints. The number of citizens' petitions, complaints and denunciations sent to functional agencies, such as the National Assembly's Civil Affairs Committee, the Government Inspectorate is still very high, but the rate of solved complaints has fallen short of expectation. According to data from the Judicial Committee of the National Assembly, the percentage of authorities that neither hold dialogue with citizens nor attend hearings increases annually. From 2015 to 2017, since the Law on Administrative Procedure took effect, there had been 11,180 administrative decisions and administrative acts that were completely or partially canceled nationwide. Decrees and ordinances on the implementation of the Grassroots Democracy Regulation have not been effectively implemented in some places.

The aforementioned limitations and shortcomings have both objective and subjective reasons, of which the latter is the main cause. Objective reasons: Renovation is a great, comprehensive, prolonged, difficult, complex and unprecedented career in history. The situation of the world, the region and the resistance of hostile forces have a great impact on the promotion of democracy. Subjective reasons: The theory research and practice review of democracy implementation in the Party, state agencies and society have not been paid adequate attention, slowly explained and fully institutionalized in terms of state.

The mechanism of "Party leadership, State management, the people's mastery" aims to better promote the people's mastery. The study and forecast of variations in quantity, quality and ideology of social strata to develop policies and guidelines of leadership to promote democracy closely, properly and effectively have not been proactively conducted. There are still limitations in the awareness, method and way of directing the organization of the Party's guidelines, State’s policies and legislation in promoting economic, political, social and civil rights. The management, education and training of cadres and party members, especially leading and key managers of all levels, in terms of political ideology, ethics and lifestyle have not been regularly and appropriately. As a result, there is part of cadres and party members violating democratic regulations, disrespecting the people's mastery.

Major solutions to promoting socialist democracy

First, continue to broadly promote democracy in the Party.

The promotion of democracy in the party requires the party committees, each cadre and party member, especially the heads, must comprehend deeply and be fully aware of the Party's viewpoints and guidelines of promoting democracy. Concurrently, strengthen practice review and theory research on promoting the right to mastery; effectively handle the organic relationship between "Party leadership, State management, the people's mastery"; create necessary and sufficient conditions for people to truly and effectively exercise the right to mastery. Continue to supplement statutes and regulations on democracy to implement uniformly throughout the Party.

First of all, it is necessary to regulate more clearly that the Party serves the people, is subject to the people’s supervision, and is responsible to the people for its decisions. Supplement regulations on promoting democracy in parallel with controlling power in the personnel work. The Party unanimously directs the personnel work and personnel management. To ensure the principle of democratic centralism, all decisions on personnel work must be discussed collectively and decided by majority. Publicity and transparency in terms of targets, recruitment plans, training, retraining, cadre planning; scale, rank and class promotion examinations, emulation title reviews; criteria, conditions, quantity, structure, rotation, mobilization, appointment, nomination of candidates. Carry out secret vote on the issues that need voting in personnel work; impose regulations of fair competition in personnel work. Every qualified cadre in the planning area has the same opportunity to show his or her quality and competence in recruiting, selecting for leadership and management titles. Conduct elections with excessive number of candidates; appoint cadre through competition, examinations or action plan defending. Along with promoting democracy in personnel work, there must be a regulation on controlling and monitoring the relations of interests in the personnel work in order to make it objective and impartial. Continue to effectively implement the regime that the Politburo reports its work and activities before each plenum of the Central Committee; the Standing Committee reports its work and activities before each party committee session; party committees report to the party organization or bodies that elected them. Improve the quality and effectiveness of the regulations on questioning and answering activities in party activities, making this a regular regime. In order to practice democracy in the Party, each party member must strictly abide by the Politburo's Regulation No. 08 Qđi / TW, dated October 25, 2018: “Regarding responsibility of setting examples of cadres, party members, first of all members of the Party Politburo, Secretariat and Central Committee”. Among a number of contents of setting examples, setting examples in implementation of the Grassroots Democracy Regulation should be attached importance.

Second, the Party leads the State to institutionalize the Party's viewpoints and guidelines on promoting democracy into policies and laws, and to strengthen the building, consolidating and perfecting of the socialist rule-of-law State of the people, by the people, for the people.

On the basis of concretizing the provisions of the 2013 Constitution, institutionalizing the Resolution of the 6th Plenum of the Party Central Committee, 12th Tenure (“Regarding continuing to renovate and streamline the political system apparatus to make it compact, efficient and effective”) to implement organizational and operational reforms of the National Assembly and the Government. The apparatus must be compact, distinct in functions, powers and responsibilities. The organization and operation of the state apparatus from the Central to local levels must create conditions for people to approach, dialogue, inspect and supervise; as well as being capable of mobilizing talent, intellect and creativity of people in state and social management. The State must ensure and promote the people’s true right to mastery, especially the right to take part in building the government, to choose their representatives and to possess lawful property. Expand dialogues between the State and the people and enterprises through various forms; enhance State’s accountability and listening to the people. Strengthen grassroots democracy; expand direct forms of democracy so that people can engage in State affairs in a practical and appropriate manner. State administrative agencies and administrations at all levels continue to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of state management, ensuring that policies and laws are effectively implemented. Focus on directing and administering the implementation of socio-economic development goals; constantly improve the material and spiritual life of people of all strata; effectively implement social security policies. Promote administrative reform; create favorable conditions for people to implement administrative procedures.

Third, the Vietnam Fatherland Front and socio-political organizations promote their roles and positions according to the Party's regulations and legal documents to effectively perform the function of social supervision and criticism, especially issues related to promoting democracy, the rights and interests of members, unions and associations’ members.

The Vietnam Fatherland Front and socio-political organizations exercise their right of social supervision and criticism in various fields, including the field of promoting democracy. The Vietnam Fatherland Front mobilizes, rallies and encourages people of all strata, unions and associations’ members to effectively perform the tasks of socio-economic development, national defense and security; concurrently partakes in building the Party and government pure and strong. Encourage patriots, intellectuals, experts and scientists to contribute opinions to formulate important legal documents and important socio-economic development projects of the country. Promptly gather legitimate proposals, petitions and aspirations of unions and associations’ members and voters to reflect to the Party and the State for consideration of leadership and direction for settlement.

Participate in discovering, selecting and nominating virtuous and capable people to be the people's true representative in the National Assembly and people's councils at all levels. Under the leadership of the party committees, strengthen the monitoring function with focus for the state administrative agencies, authorities at all levels and the contingent of cadres and party members, especially the heads. In the current situation, it is necessary to strengthen the supervision of the leadership and implementation of the Grassroots Democracy Regulation, the reception of citizens, the dialogue with citizens and the settlement of citizens’ complaints and denunciations to the authorities at all levels. Strengthen education, improve public service morality and sense of responsibility of civil servants and public employees towards the people.

Fourth, promoting the role and responsibility of the heads of party committees, governments at all levels, state agencies and units of the entire political system on promoting socialist democracy.

In the context of promoting the development of a socialist-oriented market economy and the proactive, active international integration, one of the decisive factors to the quality and effectiveness of promoting democracy is the role of heads of party committees, governments, state agencies and units in the entire political system. Democracy is effectively promoted where leaders deeply and fully comprehend the people's right to mastery, the implementation of the Grassroots Democracy Regulation, and where leaders always set examples of morality, lifestyle, and rule of law. Each party committee secretary from the central to grassroots level, key leaders of state agencies, governments at all levels, state agencies and units must truly promote democracy in the Party, transparently administer the government, uphold the role, the vanguard and exemplariness of cadres and party members. Fight against bureaucracy, authoritarianism, corruption, wastefulness and acts of infringing upon people's right to mastery. In practice, it is of crucial importance in association with the results of implementing political tasks to select and assign virtuous and capable leaders. Those must be able to creatively apply scientific and technological achievements to the leadership and management in order to create a democratic environment for developing the intelligence, creativity and contribution of the contingent of cadres, civil servants and officials. According to the Party's regulations, heads of all levels and sectors must periodically directly receive citizens and hold dialogues with citizens. Only by doing so, can they grasp and be fully competent to direct and promptly handle legal and legitimate petitions and proposals. Concurrently, they can direct the settlement of citizens' complaints and denunciations, and prevent “hot spots” and complicated, prolonged incidents to occur.

Fifth, leading and directing media agencies to promote the propaganda and dissemination of the Party's guidelines and policies, the State's policies and laws on promoting democracy, creating a change in awareness of people of all strata.

The press and the mass media play a particularly important role in disseminating and widely propagating the Party's guidelines, resolutions, and the State’s policies and laws. People are greatly interested in publicizing the regimes and policies that directly relate to them, such as social security policies (jobs, labor, wages, allowance, insurance ...). The government at all levels must publicly inform the people about socio-economic development projects, urban planning, infrastructure, land use planning, etc. Publicity in the above projects helps the people to know, comment and supervise the implementation when being approved by competent authorities. Party committees and governments promote the role of the press and the mass media to mobilize the people to vigorously fight against cadres’ corruption and negative phenomena. It is difficult to achieve positive results in the context that the ruling Party struggles with negative phenomena of cadres and party members in positions of authority, while not using the public opinion weapons, not promoting the role of the people’s mastery. On that basis, fight for democracy, promptly criticize the manifestation of extremism, taking advantage of democracy to distort, incite and entice the masses to serve "group interests" and selfish interests; at the same time, overcoming and ending nominal democratic acts in all fields of social life./.

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This article was published in the Communist Review, No. 925 (September 2019)
(1) Party document: full volume, Truth Publishing House, Hanoi, 1987, p47, p.362, p.363
(2) Documents of the 11th National Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2011, p238-239
(3) Documents of the 13th National Congress, Central Office, 2016, p.217
Nguyễn Thế TrungCommissioner of Central Theoretical Council