An attempt by political activists to challenge for seats in next month’s legislative election has suffered its biggest setback, with the rejection of one of the campaign’s leading figures.
Dr Nguyen Quang A was denied the right to stand as a candidate during a vetting session organised by the Patriotic Front, which represents the interests of the Communist party.
There were scuffles outside between police and his supporters, while inside, a group of selected constituents harangued the veteran democracy activist and overwhelmingly rejected his bid for a seat in the National Assembly.
A former Communist party member and IT entrepreneur, Dr Quang A had inspired dozens of human rights campaigners and democracy advocates to use the National Assembly election in May to challenge the party’s monopoly on power.
Five other independents were also rejected at the weekend. Three more said they would boycott the election in protest at what they called “manipulation by the Communist party”.
Dr Quang A received the backing of only six of the 75 people who attended the vetting session.
His own supporters were prevented from entering.
The prospective candidate was accused at the meeting of making no contribution to the country.
One resident said that government hired propagandists, known as Du Luan Vien, had been to the area beforehand and urged people not to vote for him.
They handed out flyers accusing Dr Quang A of being “anti-state” and a “national traitor”.
Before the meeting, he had obtained signatures of support from some 5,000 voters across the country.
Expose government’s claim
He is known as a leading, but moderate, campaigner for a more pluralistic political system. He maintains contact with a wide range of activists as well as influential figures in the Communist party.
Dr Quang A said he had never expected his candidature to be approved, given the level of control exercised by the Communist party.
He said the purpose of the campaign was to test and expose the government’s claim that the process was a democratic one.
He says the challenge of the independents is part of a broader long term strategy to push for an opening up of the political system and an easing of repression.
Dr Quang A was first exposed to the struggles of reforming communism in Hungary in the 1970s, where he obtained a doctorate in cybernetics and electronic telecommunication. He went on to become the founder of the first non-state-owned bank in Vietnam, and a leading contributor to the introduction of the internet in Vietnam in 1997.
In recent years, he became a prominent activist who initiated many campaigns promoting human rights and democracy, such as the Civil Society Forum, an independent civil society organization comprising some 70 intellectuals who speak out for reform.