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Cablegate: Local Election Results

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

Ref: Hanoi 01209

1. (U) Summary. Ninety nine point five per cent or about
fifty million voters allegedly cast the polls on April 25 to
elect deputies to local legislatures -- known as People's
Councils -- at the provincial, district, and commune levels.
Percentages of women, "young," and Communist Party (CPV)
members who were elected did not meet official targets. In
addition, many serving local officials failed to win
(re)election. Fraud was a recognized problem, and "proxy
voting" was prevalent. While more an exercise in public
relations than true grassroots democracy, the elections
reflected a more assertive role by voters, potentially
posing a long-term challenge to the continued CPV monopoly
of power, if not its actual political domination. End

Not quite meeting goals

2. (U) The GVN recently released statistics about the
results of the April 25 elections for People's Councils at
the provincial, district, and commune levels (reftel).
According to official sources, 99.5 per cent of Vietnam's
eligible voters cast their votes for a total of 306,123
deputies at the three levels. According to the official
report, the number of CPV and GVN officials elected to the
new People's Councils -- especially at the provincial and
district levels -- remained high. Female delegates
respectively accounted for 23.8 pct, 23.22 pct, and 20.1 pct
of the total number of elected delegates at the provincial,
district, and commune levels. For new "young" delegates
(under 35 years old), the numbers were, respectively, 10.7
pct, 14.61 pct, and 21.5 pct. Ethnic minority legislators
elected at the provincial level represented 18.90 pct, with
17.6 pct at the district level and 21.2 pct at the commune
level. Non-CPV members won 13.60 pct of the seats at the
provincial level, 14.61 pct at the district level, and 30.80
pct at the commune level. Slightly over thirty-one pct of
the provincial-level delegates will serve at least their
second term in the People's Council. Three hundred and
twelve self-nominated candidates won this year's elections,
compared to two hundred and eighty seven for the last
People's Councils, while still representing only about 1 pct
of all new delegates.

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3. (U) According to Tran Ngoc Nhan, Director of the central
Vietnam Fatherland Front's Department for Democracy and
Legal Affairs, the initial goals had been for female
delegates to account for twenty five per cent of the total
number of delegates at all three levels, while young
delegates would respectively account for 15, 20, and 25 per
cent, and non-CPV members somewhere between 25 and 30 pct.
No goal was set with respect to the ethnic minorities
delegates, he claimed. Nhan attributed such lower results
to "voters' choice," asserting that the VFF committees at
all levels had focused on seeking the "best" candidates for
the elections. (Before the election, he had confidently
predicted to Embassy that a more diverse spectrum of
delegates to People's Councils would improve public

4. (U) Observers noted that the failure of many senior CPV
and State officials nominated by CPV committees at all the
three levels to win election was perhaps the most noteworthy
aspect of the elections. Even the official media reported
public complaints that delegates who are simultaneously
employees of local CPV and State's offices normally do not
spend adequate time and efforts for local legislatures.
According to an official report from the Ministry of Home
Affairs, eleven candidates who were standing members of
provincial CPV committees and thirty-two department-level
directors and deputy directors failed to win election. One
hundred and two candidates who were standing members of CPV
committees at district level, including a number of chairmen
and vice chairmen of People's Councils and People's
Committees, also did not win. Similarly, more than two
thousand candidates who were standing members of CPV
committees at the commune level, including numerous chairmen
and vice chairmen of communal People's Councils and People's
Committees, failed to win election.

5. (U) In Quang Binh province, candidate Dinh Huu Cuong,
Chairman of the provincial CPV committee and incumbent
Chairman of the provincial People's Council (1999-2004
tenure) was not elected to the new provincial People's
Council. Officials from Quang Binh People's Committee
confirmed to a local newspaper that the provincial CPV
committee had intended for Cuong to serve another term as
Chairman of the provincial People's Council.

6. (U) CPV Politburo member Tran Dinh Hoan, also chairman
of the CPV Commission for Organization and Personnel
Affairs, nonetheless reiterated publicly that current CPV
officials should still hold major People's Councils
positions. Hoan claimed that CPV and People's Council
portfolios have "much in common," because both deal with
"orientations and guidelines." Hoan indicated that the
CPV's responsibility for personnel evaluation and selection
must be an integral part of local elections, so that the
current system -- the "Party names the leaders, the people
vote for them" -- could gradually develop into a more
democratic process, while still guaranteeing the CPV's
fundamental leadership role. A GVN report explicitly warned
that the failure of "Party-designated" candidates to win the
elections should be considered a "serious lesson" for local
CPV committees. Failure of CPV-designated candidates to win
elections for People's Councils signaled increased public
distrust in the professional capabilities of quite senior
local officials, opined a senior staffer of the Office of
the National Assembly (ONA) privately.

Fraud and proxy voting

7. (U) Voting fraud was formally reported in numerous
localities. In early May, the National Assembly Standing
Committee (NASC) asked for new elections in twenty five
communal polling stations and in eleven provinces and
municipalities: Danang, Haiphong, Nam Dinh, Hai Duong, Vinh
Phuc, Ha Nam, Ha Tinh, Thanh Hoa, Dac Nong, Nghe An, and Bac
Can. ONA officials asserted that the new elections (which
took place simultaneously on May 9) reflected an effort to
rectify "serious violations to laws." In a number of
localities, the number of votes at the April elections had
noticeably outnumbered the number of eligible voters,
confirmed one ONA official.

8. (U) Apart from more egregious fraud, the tradition of
"proxy voting," as noted in reftel and in the May 2002
National Assembly elections, has become prevalent. Often,
one member of a family will cast the ballots for all
eligible family members, even though this is not technically
allowed. (Duc, can you describe this a little more,
please??) Local officials privately admitted that they were
"tolerant" of proxy voting, under pressure for high and
quick voting turnout.

9. (U) Comment: No one expected local elections in Vietnam
to be a genuine example of grassroots democracy in action,
given the elaborate stage-managed process overseen by the
CPV and the VFF. The elections are mostly a public
relations exercise to convince the citizens that they have a
role in the legislative process, and to bolster GVN and CPV
claims to be building "grassroots democracy." Nonetheless,
the growing willingness of voters to cast their ballots with
greater independence -- rejecting candidates from among the
State and CPV ranks in favor of potentially more
representative legislators, or those personally known to
them -- is yet another indication that the CPV grip over the
lives of citizens is loosening. As the local councils
receive additional authority over local budgets and other
issues of direct concern to voters, this trend is likely to
continue, posing new challenges for the CPV monopoly of
power in the future, while not fundamentally undermining its
political domination.

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