Vietnam thwarts election bid by dissidents, pop star

2016-04-26 18:56
Mai Khoi during an interview with AFP in Hanoi. (Hoang Dinh Nam, AFP)

Mai Khoi during an interview with AFP in Hanoi. (Hoang Dinh Nam, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Hanoi - Communist Vietnam has blocked a motley crew of independent candidates from running for its rubber-stamp parliament, a move activists say highlights its empty gestures towards democracy.

In an unprecedented showing this year, more than 100 independent candidates - including dissidents, a taxi driver and a pop star - tried to run for the National Assembly.

But of the 870 candidates approved to contest the May 22 elections only 11 were not from the ruling communist party.

Nguyen Hanh Phuc, from the National Elections Committee, said this was due to strict quotas aimed a creating a representative cross-section of society in the legislative body.

"We need the appearance of all social groups participating in the National Assembly," he told reporters.

But democracy activists said all genuinely independent candidates have now been excluded from the race.

While the constitution allows anyone over 21 to seek election to parliament, the reality is quite different.

"No matter how much effort they put into running as an independent candidate, they'd definitely fail if they're not on the pre-approved list," an official at a local election unit told AFP.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there were secret plans to allow some independent candidates to run to give the impression of functioning democracy in the authoritarian country.

"I personally was told to encourage two neighbours to run, to demonstrate that the campaign is democratic," he said, adding that he later encouraged them to "voluntarily" withdraw from the race.

'Waste of time'

Despite attracting widespread public support from her social media campaign, pop singer Mai Khoi - dubbed Vietnam's Lady Gaga for her eye-catching wardrobe and pink hair - was among those disqualified.

"It's a waste of time and money," she said of the election process.

Phan Van Bach, a 41-year-old taxi driver and father of four, said authorities used "childish tactics" and threats to force him out of the race.

Bach's wife received a call saying "Tell your husband to stop running for elections or he might have a traffic accident," he said, adding he remained undeterred.

For lawyer Vo An Don, from south central Phu Yen province, it was no surprise that the independent candidates were disqualified.

"In Vietnam, becoming a National Assembly deputy as an independent candidate is like an elephant trying to sneak through a hole the size of an ant," he said, using a Vietnamese proverb.

But academic and failed candidate Nguyen Quang A said he still felt the exercise had been a success.

"This is just a small step in a long and difficult process," he said.

"Everyone has learned a lot - what an election is, how the process works, where the law is unconstitutional."

Mai Khoi has issued a video invitation to US President Barack Obama, who is due to visit Vietnam in May, to meet the disqualified candidates and push for electoral reform.

Read more on:    vietnam

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.