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Viet Nam all ears to international referendum experiences

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Ha Noi 18 November 2014 - Legal sector partners gathered in Ha Noi on 17 and 18 November to discuss how Viet Nam can legislate referenda by studying relevant international experiences.

Jointly organized by UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Viet Nam Lawyer’s Association (VLA), the International Workshop on Comparative Legal Frameworks and Procedures for conducting Referenda provided insights from other countries on how the referendum processes work and how Viet Nam could best use this important tool of citizen participation in governance.

“At their essence, referendums are a means to provide direct participation by citizens to decide on fundamental changes to the country’s legal framework,” UNDP Deputy Country Director in Viet Nam Bakhodir Burkhanov said at the workshop.

In Viet Nam, the right to referenda is stipulated in 2013 Constitution in Article 29 “Citizens of 18 years of age or older have the right to vote in referendums organized by the State”. The VLA is assigned as the principal drafting agency for the Law on Referendum. The drafting team includes representatives from other relevant state agencies and institutions. The law will be first reviewed at the National Assembly session in May-June 2015 and is scheduled to be approved at the October-November 2015 session.

More than 160 countries currently have some form of referendum process as part of their governance structure. During the workshop, accomplished experts from Australia, the Philippines and Switzerland shared their country’s referendum experiences with the drafting team. The discussion focused on what issues will be appropriate for direct citizen voting and how the text and legal consequences of a referendum will be reviewed and recognized to ensure that enforcement complies with the newly amended Constitution.

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