Polls open in Vietnam`s one-party state

The Vietnam polls have been officially described as "great political event".

Hanoi: Vietnam began voting on Sunday in an election officially described as a "great political event" even though the ruling communists are guaranteed to hold onto power in the one-party state.

More than 60 million people are eligible to cast ballots for 500 members of the National Assembly, widely regarded as becoming more outspoken despite being under the control of the communists.

The assembly will later endorse the country`s new government.

Voters were already arriving to cast their votes shortly after polling stations officially opened at 7:00 am (0000 GMT).

There has been daily coverage on state television of election preparations, and red banners on the elections hang in city streets.

"The whole people are excited and glad, looking forward to the elections," says one. Another urges them to choose candidates wisely.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga previously said the elections are "a great political event for the people of Vietnam".

But Le Quoc Quan, who failed in a bid to nominate himself as a candidate, said people had little knowledge of the 827 names on the ballot.

The election is part of a five-yearly political ritual that began in January with the party`s congress, which determined key leadership positions and discussed a socio-economic strategy for the next decade.

Although Vietnam`s authoritarian leadership ruled out an end to the one-party system it allows about 10 percent of legislators to be non-party members.

But to make it onto the list of candidates, even the non-party members have to go through a process that ensures controversial names such as Quan`s are weeded out.

Fifteen candidates are self-nominated while all the rest have been put forward by organisations such as official women`s or veterans` groups, said Nguyen Si Dzung, the Assembly`s deputy secretary general.

Candidates have been screened by the Fatherland Front, a link between the party and the people, and approved by their neighbourhoods and workplaces.

Polling stations display mugshots of those running for office, along with their single-page biographies.

Election results are expected in one week.

Bureau Report