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Backgrounds: Vietnam Government
A new state constitution was approved in April 1992, reaffirming the central role of the Communist Party in politics and society, and outlining government reorganization and increased economic freedom. Though Vietnam remains a one-party state, adherence to ideological orthodoxy has become less important than economic development as a national priority.
The most important powers within the Vietnamese Government--in addition to the Communist Party--are the executive agencies created by the 1992 constitution: the offices of the president and the prime minister. The Vietnamese President, presently Tran Duc Luong, functions as head of state but also serves as the nominal commander of the armed forces and chairman of the Council on National Defense and Security. The Prime Minister of Vietnam, presently Phan Van Khai, heads a cabinet currently composed of four deputy prime ministers and the heads of 31 ministries and commissions, all confirmed by the National Assembly.
Notwithstanding the 1992 Constitution's reaffirmation of the central role of the Communist Party, the National Assembly, according to the Constitution, is the highest representative body of the people and the only organization with legislative powers. It has a broad mandate to oversee all government functions. Once seen as little more than a rubber stamp, the National Assembly has become more vocal and assertive in exercising its authority over lawmaking, particularly in the recent years. However, the National Assembly is still subject to party direction. About 80% of the deputies in the National Assembly are party members. The assembly meets twice yearly for 7-10 weeks each time; elections for members are held every 5 years. There is a separate judicial branch, but it is relatively weak. Overall, there are few lawyers and trial procedures are rudimentary.
The present 15-member Politburo, elected in April 2001 and headed by Communist Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh, determines government policy, and its nine-person Secretariat oversees day-to-day policy implementation. Although there has been some effort to discourage membership in overlapping party and state positions, this practice continues. Four--Phan Van Khai, Nguyen Tan Dung, Le Minh Huong, and Pham Van Tra--of the Politburo members concurrently hold high positions in the government. In addition, the Party's Central Military Commission, which is composed of select Politburo members and additional military leaders, determines military policy.
A Party Congress, comprised of 1,168 delegates at the Ninth Party Congress in April 2001, meets every 5 years to set the direction of the party and the government. The 150-member Central Committee, which was elected by the Party Congress, usually meets at least twice a year.
Politburo (Ninth Party Congress Politburo, named April 22, 2001; listed in order of rank as of April 22, 2001)
Vietnam maintains an embassy in the U.S. at 1233-20th Street, NW, #400 (tel. 202-861-0737; fax 202-861-0917).
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