The country’s supreme political and policy-making authority is the Communist Party of Viet Nam, one of a network of 30 mass organisations grouped together under the Viet Nam Fatherland Front Under the 1992 constitution. Major policy changes are ratified and government officials appointed at Party Congresses, which have been held since 1935 and currently take place every five years. The Party is governed by a Central Committee of some 150 members, which elects a 15-member Political Bureau to oversee the functioning of the Party and issue guidelines to the legislature. In practice day-to-day decision-making rests in the hands of a small group of Politburo and Central Committee members known as the Party Secretariat . This seven-member group was established at the 9th Party Congress of April 2001 to replace the former Standing Politburo Commission with a view to streamlining the workings of government. The post of Party General Secretary is currently held by Mr Nguyen Phu Trong.
Legislative power in Viet Nam is held by a 500-member National Assembly, which is elected to a five-year term by universal adult suffrage. Its current Chairperson is Mr Nguyuen Phu Trong. The National Assembly meets twice each year to consider and approve legislation and policy and to endorse Ministerial appointments recommended by the Communist Party or the Government. It also elects the 15-member Standing Committee of the National Assembly, which appoints the President (in Vietnamese Chairperson); the Presidency is currently held by Mr Nguyen Minh Triet.
The National Assembly elects members of the Government, the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuracy.
According to the 1992 Constitution, the Government is the highest administrative organ of the whole country, the executive organ of the National Assembly, the highest administrative State organ of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam. It is charged with responsibility for exercising unified management over the implementation of political, economic, cultural, social, defence, security and external relations tasks throughout the country. At the time of going to press the Government is headed by a Prime Minister – currently Mr Nguyen Tan Dung – and four Deputy Prime Ministers, who are appointed by the National Assembly. The Government exercises executive power through a network of 18 Ministries, five Ministry-level agencies and 22 Ministry-affiliated agencies.
Viet Nam is divided administratively into five major cities – Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Sai Gon), Hai Phong, Da Nang and Can Tho – and 59 provinces. Both the five major cities and the 59 provinces are directly responsible to central government, though in practice each enjoys a considerable degree of autonomy. The provinces comprise rural districts and communes, together with provincial cities and towns, whilst the five major cities and a number of provincial towns are made up of urban districts with constituent wards. All rural communes and many urban wards incorporate constituent villages and hamlets.
Elected People’s Councils are constituted to represent the citizenry in all dealings with central government. These People’s Councils exist at three levels, namely: the five major cities and 59 provinces, urban and rural districts and provincial cities and towns, and rural communes, urban wards and townships. At each level the People’s Councils operate through their executive arm, the People’s Committees.
At major city and provincial level the People’s Committees manage and oversee the activities of specialist local government offices such as the Municipal or Provincial Service of Education and Training, the Municipal or Provincial Service of Industry and the Municipal or Provincial Service of Culture and Information, the responsibilities of which correspond to those of Viet Nam’s central government ministries. There is also a vertical line relationship from these Municipal or Provincial Services to their corresponding ministries in Ha Noi, which enable the latter to provide guidance on both policy and practice relating to their particular areas of responsibility. Specialist local government offices also operate at urban and rural district and provincial city and town level but not, as yet, at rural commune, urban ward or township level.