- Documents on Democracy
When in January 2013 the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) announced that it would seek citizen feedback on its efforts to amend the constitution, some Vietnamese called for the removal of Article IV, which grants the Party a leadership role in society and the state. In February, CPV General-Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong delivered a nationally televised speech equating this criticism with moral deterioration. When journalist Nguyen Dac Kien published a piece rebuking this assumption of moral superiority, he was fired from his position at a state-run newspaper within 24 hours. On February 28, a group of Vietnamese bloggers published a “Declaration of Free Citizens,” which quickly attracted thousands of signatories. It appears below:
We, the undersigned, call upon our fellow citizens to join us in declaring:
1. We not only want to abolish Article IV in the constitution, but also to have a Constitutional Congress to establish a new constitution that truly reflects the will of our people, not the will of the Communist Party as currently in the constitution in force.
2. We support a pluralistic and multiparty system, and all political parties who fairly compete for the advancement of freedom, peace, and prosperity of the people of Vietnam. No political party has the right to control, and to tyrannize this nation.
3. We not only support a democratic system which upholds the independence of the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary, but also wish for a government that decentralizes its power by empowering the autonomy of local levels of government, and eradicates the state-sponsored consortium, and all state-owned corporations, which misuse the national budget, breed corruption, destroy the people’s faith, will, and the spirit of our national unity.
4. We support the military becoming nonpartisan, free from party [End Page 181] affiliation. The military is to protect the people, the land, and defend national sovereignty, not to serve any political party.
5. We assert the right to declare the above and that all our fellow Vietnamese citizens share the same right.
We affirm that we are exercising our fundamental human rights, which constitute the rights of free thoughts and free expression. These are natural rights that are inherent in every human being at birth. The Vietnamese people recognize and respect these universal rights. These rights are not granted to us by the Communist Party and hence, the Communist Party has no right to dispossess us of them nor to judge them. We deem any judgment or accusation aimed at us an act of defamation. We believe anyone who opposes these human rights is also against our national interests and mankind’s civilization.
Let us join hands to turn this Declaration of Free Citizens into an unbreakable tie that bonds together millions of Vietnamese hearts. Let us raise our voice by signing our names at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
On 10 September 2012, just over a month after Somali leaders adopted a new constitution, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was chosen by members of Somalia’s newly constituted parliament as the president of the re-born state. On January 17, he delivered a speech at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. Below are lightly edited excerpts from his speech:
You all agree with me that being president of a failed nation requires a lot of energy and time, and still you are not sure if you will succeed. However, the greater vision that I have for my country has led me to take on the challenge. . . .
Institutions are the basis of good governance, and in Somalia there are no institutions, and no resources—and in certain areas, no capacity—for easily building institutions. Imagine that you are asked to start an institution without any resources and without people who are capable of managing that institution. Then, imagine that you are asked to lead a nation that is dysfunctional at all levels, and that you are asked to lead a people that has a level of mistrust that many other peoples in the world have not experienced. And you have a people who are divided and sometimes believe that they are better off without institutions, without...