03/08/2013, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Hanoi against bishops and reformists to save one-party state

Government, party and military leaders warn against proposals of constitutional reform with the "wrong content." Parliamentary speaker calls for struggle against those who promote "wrong ideas". Army paper warns against opportunists and "hostile" reactionary forces that are opposed to party and state.

Hanoi (AsiaNews/EdA) - Vietnam's Communist leaders have warned against proposals to constitutional reform that have the "wrong content" and caused "irritation" in the country's hierarchy.

High-ranking officials in the party, government and armed forces have slammed as "wrong" all the proposals that call for an end to the one-party state dominated by the Communist party in favour of a multiparty system.

Although no names or motives were suggested, it is clear that the reference is to a petition presented to parliament in early February, and to a statement by Catholic bishops noting that "sovereignty belongs to the people, not to a single party," i.e. the Communist Party.

As a result of this, tensions have risen, leading the speaker of the National Assembly to warn against "wrong" reform proposals.

In a letter sent out last Wednesday, Nguyen Sinh Hung warns officials in charge of the consultation process, which is open to the population. In it, he urges them "to fight those who may use some of the contributions to the planned amendment of the constitution to promote wrong ideas, divide the united people's bloc, and oppose the party, state and our regime."

The letter also announced that the deadline for submitting proposals for change was extended from 31 March to 30 September.

An editorial in Quan Doi Nhan Dan, the newspaper of the Vietnamese army, takes the same stand. With a title-"Contribution or opposition?"-that already suggests its point of view, the paper criticises "opportunists driven by hostile reactionary forces" that "take advantage of our important initiative" of popular consultation to "oppose party, state and people."

Backed by intellectuals and activists, the petition called for changes to the 1992 constitution that would end the hegemony of the Communist Party.

The petition was signed by thousands of people who also submitted their comments, and was presented to the deputy president of the Constitutional Reform Committee on 2 February.

The pro-reform delegation, which included 15 of the first 72 signatories of the petition, included former Justice Minister Nguyen Dinh Loc.

At the same time, the Standing Committee of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam promoted a reflection reiterating the principle that "sovereignty belongs to the people."

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