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Asean Affairs  23 May 2011

Voting begins in Vietnam

By  David Swartzemtruber

AseanAffairs     23 May 2011

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Vietnam began voting Sunday even though the ruling communists are guaranteed to hold onto power in the one-party state.

More than 60 million people are eligible to cast ballots for 500 members of the National Assembly, which is becoming more outspoken despite being under the control of the communists.

The assembly will later endorse the country's new government.

Voters were already arriving to cast their votes shortly after polling stations officially opened at 7 a.m.

Daily coverage has appeared on state television of election preparations, and red banners on the elections hang in city streets.

"The people are excited and glad, looking forward to the elections," says one. Another urges them to choose candidates wisely.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga previously said the elections are "a great political event for the people of Vietnam".

The election is part of a five-yearly political ritual that began in January with the party's congress, which determined key leadership positions and discussed a socioeconomic strategy for the next decade.

Although Vietnam's authoritarian leadership ruled out an end to the one-party system it allows about 10 percent of legislators to be non-party members.

But to make it onto the list of candidates, even the non-party members have to go through a process that ensures controversial names are weeded out.

Fifteen candidates are self-nominated while all the rest have been put forward by organisations such as official women’s or veterans' groups, said Nguyen Si Dzung, the assembly's deputy secretary general.

Candidates have been screened by the Fatherland Front, a link between the party and the people, and approved by their neighborhoods and workplaces.

Polling stations display mugshots of those running for office, along with their single-page biographies.

Paul A. Ebeling, Jnr

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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