Changes are expected to be made to the Vietnamese constitution this October during sessions of the country’s National Assembly. The current constitution was ratified in 1992 as part of the doimoi political movement that relaxed many of the government’s economic controls, and was a major departure from its previous incarnation.

Although minor revisions were made to the constitution in 2001, far more extensive alterations are expected in the next round. Among the many points to be discussed is the possibility of altering the country’s official name.

Currently, Vietnam’s official name is “The Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” However, some politicians feel the name is less than accurate, given its economy’s continued strides away from socialism. Simply removing the word “socialist,” though, would result in the “The Republic of Vietnam,” the name of South Vietnam during the 20-plus years the country was dived in two. As a result, “The People’s Republic of Vietnam” is considered the most likely candidate.

The upcoming round of revisions stems from a recommendation initially made by the National Assembly’s Constitutional Draft Committee in October 2012. Following a month of debate, the government conducted a three-month survey to gather citizens’ opinions on the form of the constitution that has been in place since 1992. Aside from responses submitted through the National Assembly’s website, the Constitutional Draft Committee examined citizens’ opinions voiced at government facilities and through the mass media while drafting its proposed revisions.

▼ The National Assembly in session

The revision committee is proposing reorganizing the constitution into the following 11 articles.

Article 1: Establishment of Government
Article 2: Rights and duties of individuals and citizens
Article 3: Economy, society, education, science, and the environment
Article 4: National Defense
Article 5: National Assembly
Article 6: Head of State
Article 7: Executive Government
Article 8: People’s Judiciary and Public Prosecutor’s Office
Article 9: Regional administration
Article 10: Constitutional meetings, election and planning committees
Article 11: Constitutional authority and revisions

The government is expected to hold fast to the country’s status as a single-party communist state, as the proposal makes no mention of removing the statement that “The Socialist Republic of Vietnam, is a socialist constitutional state of, by, and for the people,” which was added to the current constitution in 2001.

Of note is the addition of the term “monitoring” to the section describing the interrelation between the country’s legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government. In addition, the revision proposes that the constitutionality or lack thereof of legislation and government facilities should be determined through hearings carried out by the Chairmen, Vice-Chairman, and members of the National Assembly. Currently, such authority is held only by the National Assembly’s standing committee.

The most significant alterations in Article 3 call for removing clauses that describe the country’s economic system as “a socialist-oriented market economy” and assert that “state-owned enterprises are to play a leading role.” Both changes are in keeping with the Vietnamese economy’s evolution towards a free market system, a transition highlighted by the country’s admission to the World Trade Organization in 2007.

In Vietnam’s current constitution, the phrase “human rights” does not appear, with “citizens’ fundamental rights” and “various rights of human beings,” used instead. The proposed revision to Article 2 contains the clause “human and citizens’ rights may only be restricted for reasons of national defense, national security, morality, and public order, safety, and public.” This is seen as a response to pressure from the international community regarding alleged human rights violations in the country.

Although the proposed Article 9 would nominally deal with regional administration, this is seen as little more than a semantic change, as due to Vietnam’s centralized governance system, the officials in charge of regional issues would still be appointed by the national government.

The proposal also calls for greater transparency regarding the process for modifying the country’s constitution. Current legislation merely states that such activities are the domain of the National Assembly. The revision would clarify this as the support of one-third of its members, including the Chairman and members of the Standing Committee, being necessary to introduce a motion for revision. Should the motion meet with approval by two-thirds of the members, the Assembly will then establish a Constitutional Revision Committee, which will gather public opinions and draft a proposal for submission. Ratification of the proposal would again require the approval of two-thirds of the Assembly.

Source: Japan Business Press
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