Fri, Jan 27, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Factionalism set to replace ideology in Vietnam congress


Ideological disputes that once tore through the Communist Party of Vietnam may have dissipated but as cadres prepare for a five-yearly congress in April, factional struggles are reaching fever pitch.

Seeing the party as a battleground between hardline conservatism and reformism is no longer relevant, analysts say.

Thirty years after Vietnam was reunified and two decades after the launch of economic reforms known as Doi Moi, the country is irreversibly headed towards capitalism.

It is working hard to gain formal entry into the WTO to crown its speedy integration into the global economy.

And the upcoming party congress can only be expected to endorse this trend.

"There is general agreement on the direction of economic policy, anti-corruption, reform of state-owned enterprises," says Carl Thayer, a Vietnam expert at the Australian Defense Force Academy in Canberra.

Vietnam registered 8.4 percent growth last year and the standard of living is rising rapidly.

Action is revving up in stock exchanges in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, where state enterprises are being auctioned off to private groups.

Profit is no longer a dirty word and state officials at all levels are involved in lucrative private deals. There is no talk of reviving the collectivist structures that left the country bankrupt in the 1980s.

"Even a proposed change in the party statutes to allow private entrepreneurs to join the party has not generated much debate," Thayer said, noting a "high degree of consensus within the party elite" on these issues.

Passionate discussions can certainly be expected on the thrusts of foreign policy, as Vietnam has to develop ties with China and the US without alienating either in the process.

However, the highlight of the congress is expected to be the intense horse-trading among different factions vying for top posts in the party and the government.

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