Prior to the French conquest, the political institutions of Vietnam were patterned after the Chinese model. Confucianism was the state ideology, and the emperor ruled with the assistance of mandarins—scholars trained in Confucian principles. That system was essentially discarded during the period of French colonial rule, although the Vietnamese emperor was still permitted a figurehead authority from his imperial palace in Hue. After the division of the country in 1954, the North established a Soviet-style Communist regime, while the government in the South created a parliamentary system patterned after those in the West. Neither became a practicing democracy. The Communist system of the North was extended to the entire country after reunification in 1976. Modern Vietnam has a unitary system of government with a strong central government, and exclusive power resides with the Vietnamese Communist Party, the sole legal party in the state.
After the end of French colonial rule in 1954, two independent governments emerged in Vietnam: the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) in the South, and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) in the North.
After the North won the Vietnam War and took control of all of Vietnam, the DRV became the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV). The current constitution was promulgated in 1980 and was patterned after the Soviet model, which combined nominal democratic ideas, such as the concept of elections by secret ballot, with the Leninist concept of a dominant Communist party ruling by dictatorial means in the overall interests of the people. In 1992 the constitution was amended to reflect economic reforms undertaken in 1986 as well as a decision to reduce the role of the party in the governing process.
Under the constitution as amended in 1992, the head of state is a president, elected to a five-year term by the National Assembly from among its members. The president is advised by a National Defense and Security Council and is assisted by a cabinet composed of a prime minister, a deputy prime minister, and other senior ministers. All ministers are appointed by and accountable to the National Assembly.
According to the constitution, Vietnam’s legislature, the unicameral (single-house) National Assembly is the “highest organ of State power” in Vietnam. It possesses sole power to pass legislation and to amend the constitution. It is composed of 498 deputies, elected for five years by all citizens over 18 years of age. The National Assembly holds two sessions each year to pass legislation proposed by the executive branch of the government. In the past, it served as a rubber stamp for decisions already reached by the Communist Party. Recently it has begun to adopt a more independent position on issues of direct concern to the Vietnamese populace. "Vietnam" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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