Impatience in Viet Nam

By Jonathan London, Guest Contributor
– 18 March 2013

An outpouring of unrestrained political speech was most certainly not the original intent. But what started as campaign by Viet Nam’s ruling Communist Party to bolster its subjective legitimacy through a precooked public consultation on constitutional reform morphed into an unprecedented assault on the principle of one-party rule. Within the last two weeks, thousands of Vietnamese have openly rejected one party rule. Significantly, this political outburst has been broad-based and includes many with longstanding ties to the Party and state. While there is no value is exaggerating developments of the last few weeks, it is also the case that in its nine decades of existence, the Communist Party of Viet Nam has never faced anything quite like that which it confronts today.

The current storm can be traced back to late last year when state leadership, weakened by extraordinary expressions of no confidence, declared a three-month period of public feedbacks on ongoing efforts to reform the country’s constitution, the latest version of which dates back to 1992. Initially, the campaign was greeted with silent resignation, in part reflecting the profound sense of disappointment felt by Vietnamese about the country’s current ‘leadership,’ which has been paralyzed by an insidious combination of factionalism, corruption, incompetence, and conservatism. This, and the Vietnamese state’s punishing treatment of political dissidents seemed to foreclose the possibility of anything interesting happening, to say nothing of an open political challenge. But interesting things have indeed occurred. As within the last month, Vietnamese of diverse backgrounds have found their political voice and have taken to the web, airwaves, and printed page in a flurry of free speech without recent historical parallel. They have derived inspiration from each other. And they have made their presence known.

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