Vietnam urged to engage citizens in upcoming elections

By Lam Le, Toan Dao   April 12, 2016 | 11:04 am GMT+7
Vietnam urged to engage citizens in upcoming elections
Photo: © Shutterstock/ UNDP Vietnam

Vietnam should encourage its citizens to participate more proactively in the coming elections to be held in the country soon, according to the Viet Nam Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index (PAPI) report released on Tuesday.

PAPI is a policy monitoring tool that assesses citizens' experiences and satisfaction with government performance at national and sub-national levels in governance, public administration and public services. It is a collaboration between the Centre for Community Support and Development Studies, the Centre for Research and Training of the Viet Nam Fatherland Front and the United Nations Development Programme. The survey has been implemented nationwide each year since 2011.

“The 2016 National Assembly and People’s Council elections provide an opportunity for state agencies in charge of the elections to engage citizens more proactively in these and ensure full compliance with the regulations on organizing elections,” the report said.

PAPI’s recommendations are based on the finding that citizen participation at the local level remains limited, with three out of four sub-dimensions including knowledge of participation, opportunities for participation and quality of village head elections falling in scores compared to the 2011 baselines, the 2015 survey showed. But it said citizen participation in decision-making on starting local infrastructure projects was higher in 2015, contributing to a higher score in the sub-dimension on voluntary contributions to local infrastructure projects. Provinces in the north-eastern and central regions are regarded as the best performing provinces in this dimension in the latest report.

With regards to civic knowledge, which looks at what citizens know about their political and civic rights, the report said there has been a continued decline in scores in this sub-dimension at a national level. The main reason is fewer citizens know which public office positions are elected and which are not.

The report showed that only 31 percent of respondents in the 2015 survey said they voted in the National Assembly elections, down sharply from 66 percent in 2011. Fewer citizens also took part in village head elections in 2015 (63 percent compared to 66-73 percent from 2011-2014).

At a national level, only 52 percent of respondents said they were invited to the most recent village head elections, falling from 59 percent in 2014. In addition, fewer respondents said they had at least two candidates to choose from. Candidates were also often nominated by authorities. Like previous years, more than 90 percent of respondents said they voted for the winner and overall the elections do not seem to be competitive, the report said.

Civic responsibility

Members of the public were active in voluntary contributions to building or renovating community infrastructure, such as cultural houses, roads and schools. The latest data showed that nearly 40 percent of respondents voluntarily contributed to a public project in their community in the form of cash or labor. More respondents also said they took part in decision-making to start an infrastructure project (53.5 percent).

“Improving citizen participation in local governance does not require a large financial investment from the state budget. It, however, needs strong commitment from relevant state agencies and local governments to put grassroots democracy into force and to engage citizens in political life and policy-making,” PAPI recommended in the report.

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