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Thayer Vietnam Nguyen Thien Nhan to Chair Vietnam Fatherland Front 2

Thayer Vietnam Nguyen Thien Nhan to Chair Vietnam Fatherland Front 2

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Published by Carlyle Alan Thayer
An assessment of the appointment of Nguyen Thien Nhan as chairman of the Vietnam Fatherland Front? Is he being tested for a higher position or shunted aside in advance of the 2016 national congress of the Vietnam Communist Party?
An assessment of the appointment of Nguyen Thien Nhan as chairman of the Vietnam Fatherland Front? Is he being tested for a higher position or shunted aside in advance of the 2016 national congress of the Vietnam Communist Party?

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Published by: Carlyle Alan Thayer on Sep 16, 2013
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09/19/2013

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Background Brief Vietnam: Nguyen Thien Nhan toChair Vietnam Fatherland FrontCarlyle A. ThayerSeptember 9, 2013
[client name deleted]We are preparing a report about the significance and the implications of theappointment of Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan as the president of theVietnam Fatherland Front.See:http://vietnamnews.vn/politics-laws/244485/deputy-pm-heads-fatherland-front.html[reproduced below].We request your assessment of the following:Q1. What is the significance of installing a Politburo member as the president of theFatherland Front, a move considered rare in Vietnam?ANSWER: Heads of the Vietnam Fatherland Front (VFF) in recent times have beenretired members of the Politburo. There appears to be two possible explanations.The first is Deputy Prime Minister Nhan is being given a chance to prove himself as a
man of the people
after his lacklustre performance as Minister of Education andTraining. This will have a bearing on his future at the next party congress. The secondexplanation is less charitable, Mr. Nhan is being shunted aside and is unlikely to be acontender for the prime ministership in 2016.Q2 When Nhan, an East Germany- and US-trained technocrat, was admitted to thePolitburo last April, the Vietnam Communist Party apparently sought to cash in on aface familiar to Western investors as Vietnam is struggling to resuscitate the
economy. So is this appointment indicative that the country’s leadership has
changed tact? If, so why? If not, why not? How do you expect foreign investors andthe diplomatic community to react to this appointment?ANSWER: It is unclear at this stage if Mr. Nhan will give up his portfolio as DeputyPrime Minister. His current trip to South Korea seems to indicate for now that thegovernment is i
ndeed trying to cash in on his credentials. Mr. Nhan’s appointment to
head the VFF
 per se
will be of little interest to foreign investors. Diplomats will watchclosely to see if Mr. Nhan is being given a chance to prove himself as a youngmember of the Politburo or whether he is being shunted aside.Q3. The Vietnam Fatherland Front is an umbrella organization of all political andsocial groups in Vietnam whose mandate is to challenge the Party and government
 
Thayer Consultancy
ABN # 65 648 097 123
 
2
thinking and policy. Has the group been doing a good job in this matter? If, so why?If not, why not?ANSWER: The VFF plays an important role in conveying the views of its massorganisations to the party and the government. It also plays a key role in theselection of candidates for the National Assembly. The VFF must operate withinpragmatic limits. It can convey policy suggestions and criticism to the party but itcannot confront the party. The VFF
s performance can be rated as mediocre at best.The real measure of effectiveness is the role of mass organisations. The VietnamWom
en’s Union scores highly
while the Youth Federation seems out of touch with
today’s
young people
. The VFF has the unenviable role of ‘herding cats’ among it
smembership.Q4. With Nhan at the helm, is there any ground for hope that he would be able toinject new life into the Fatherland Front? Some sceptics say things could even getworse because Nhan, a Politburo member, would just make the Fatherland Front apuppet organization rubber-stamping all the policies of the Vietnam CommunistParty. Is that a fair criticism and what is your assessment?ANSWER: In Confucian times, and in present circumstances, a retired official of impeccable integrity was/is the best person to avoid a conflict of interest. On theone hand,
Mr. Nhan’s
relative youth holds promise that he can bring the VFF into thetwenty-first century by inspiring young people in the various mass organisations.
There is a clear conflict of interest in Mr. Nhan’s case because as a member of the
Politburo he is a referee, as head of the VFF he is a player. On the other hand, Mr.
Nhan’s track r
ecord does not hold out much hope that he will be truly dynamic.Q5. What needs to be done to empower the Fatherland Front and give it moreteeth?ANSWER: The VFF needs to expand its membership to include more groups that arenot directly represented at present including non-government organisations and
people’s voluntary associations. The biggest single reform should be to make the
General Confederation of Trade Unions a truly effective representative of those whowork in the textile and garment industry, especially foreign joint ventures.The head of the VFF should be directly elected by its members not parachuted into
office from above. The VFF should take a leaf out the National Assembly’s book and
allow leadership positions to be contested by independent candidates as well asthose chosen by VFF-affiliated organisations.Q6. Can you elaborate on your statement,
The biggest single reform should be tomake the General Confederation of Trade Unions a truly effective representative of those who work in the textile and garment industry, especially foreign jointventures
. Do you mean that the Confederation has not done a good job inprotecting the workers who work in those areas?ANSWER: Yes, and that is why wildcat strikes take place.
 
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Suggested citation: Carl
yle A. Thayer, “
Vietnam: Nguyen Thien Nhan to ChairVietnam Fatherland Front
,”
 
Thayer Consultancy Background Brief 
, September 9,2013. All background briefs are posted on Scribd.com (search for Thayer). To removeyourself from the mailing list type UNSUBSCRIBE in the Subject heading and hit theReply key.Thayer Consultancy provides political analysis of current regional security issues andother research support to selected clients. Thayer Consultancy was officiallyregistered as a small business in Australia in 2002.
Deputy PM heads Fatherland Front
Viet Nam News 
, September 6, 2013
Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan (L) will take on the new appointment of President of the Viet Nam Fatherland Front (VFF) Central Committee.
VNA/VNS Photo
 
HA NOI (VNS)
Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan will take on thenew appointment of President of the Viet Nam Fatherland Front (VFF) CentralCommittee.Commenting on his new role, Nhan said he would try his best to guide theVFF to fulfill its goals of contributing to national unity as well as mobilisingcitizens to participate in movements and campaigns designed to help stabilisethe macro economy, curb inflation and maintain economic growth.The appointment was made at yesterday's VFF Central Committee's sixthconference, held to discuss its key tasks through 2013.He expressed his hope to receive support from its member groups, agenciesand people of all social strata in order to improve the VFF's operations.

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