Day of democracy in communist Vietnam in vote on party's parliament

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'Day of Democracy' in Communist Vietnam
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Day of democracy in communist Vietnam in vote on party's parliament
Commuters stop near a poster promoting the 14th National Assembly election on a street in Hanoi, Vietnam May 20, 2016. Communist Vietnam holds its five-yearly day of democracy on Sunday with an election for its parliament, and the only national poll in a country tightly controlled by one party for 41 years. The secretive Communist Party has been on a publicity blitz to showcase its democratic credentials, with the rural roads and the streets of its bustling cities festooned with billboards of a hammer and sickle and the workers, farmers and soldiers synonymous with the stateÃs socialist foundations. The poster reads: "Voting for members of the National Assembly and People's councils is a citizen's right." REUTERS/Kham SEARCH "COMMUNIST POSTERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A cow farmer rides a motorcycle on a grass field near a poster promoting the 14th National Assembly election at a village outside Hanoi, Vietnam May 20, 2016. Communist Vietnam holds its five-yearly day of democracy on Sunday with an election for its parliament, and the only national poll in a country tightly controlled by one party for 41 years. The secretive Communist Party has been on a publicity blitz to showcase its democratic credentials, with the rural roads and the streets of its bustling cities festooned with billboards of a hammer and sickle and the workers, farmers and soldiers synonymous with the stateÃs socialist foundations. The poster reads: "Warmly welcome the National Assembly and the People's councils' election day." REUTERS/Kham SEARCH "COMMUNIST POSTERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A man waters flowers in front of a poster promoting the 14th National Assembly election on a street in Hanoi, Vietnam May 20, 2016. Communist Vietnam holds its five-yearly day of democracy on Sunday with an election for its parliament, and the only national poll in a country tightly controlled by one party for 41 years. The secretive Communist Party has been on a publicity blitz to showcase its democratic credentials, with the rural roads and the streets of its bustling cities festooned with billboards of a hammer and sickle and the workers, farmers and soldiers synonymous with the stateÃs socialist foundations. The poster (L) reads: "Vote for MPs who are directly contributing to building a socialist Vietnam of the people, by the people and for the people." REUTERS/Kham SEARCH "COMMUNIST POSTERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A man rides an electric bike under a poster promoting the 14th National Assembly election on a street in Hanoi, Vietnam May 20, 2016. Communist Vietnam holds its five-yearly day of democracy on Sunday with an election for its parliament, and the only national poll in a country tightly controlled by one party for 41 years. The secretive Communist Party has been on a publicity blitz to showcase its democratic credentials, with the rural roads and the streets of its bustling cities festooned with billboards of a hammer and sickle and the workers, farmers and soldiers synonymous with the stateÃs socialist foundations. The poster (R) reads: "All voters of the country actively vote for members of the National Assembly and People's councils." REUTERS/Kham SEARCH "COMMUNIST POSTERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Posters promoting 14th National Assembly election are seen on a street in Hanoi, Vietnam May 20, 2016. Communist Vietnam holds its five-yearly day of democracy on Sunday with an election for its parliament, and the only national poll in a country tightly controlled by one party for 41 years. The secretive Communist Party has been on a publicity blitz to showcase its democratic credentials, with the rural roads and the streets of its bustling cities festooned with billboards of a hammer and sickle and the workers, farmers and soldiers synonymous with the stateÃs socialist foundations. The poster (R) reads: "Clever to choose the people with ethics and talent." REUTERS/Kham SEARCH "COMMUNIST POSTERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Posters promoting the 14th National Assembly election are seen on a street in Hanoi, Vietnam May 20, 2016. Communist Vietnam holds its five-yearly day of democracy on Sunday with an election for its parliament, and the only national poll in a country tightly controlled by one party for 41 years. The secretive Communist Party has been on a publicity blitz to showcase its democratic credentials, with the rural roads and the streets of its bustling cities festooned with billboards of a hammer and sickle and the workers, farmers and soldiers synonymous with the stateÃs socialist foundations. The poster (L) reads: Voting for the members of the National Assembly and People's councils 2016-2021." REUTERS/Kham SEARCH "COMMUNIST POSTERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
People drive past posters promoting the 14th National Assembly election outside Nhan Dan daily, the Vietnam Communist Party's paper, on a street in Hanoi, Vietnam May 20, 2016. Communist Vietnam holds its five-yearly day of democracy on Sunday with an election for its parliament, and the only national poll in a country tightly controlled by one party for 41 years. The secretive Communist Party has been on a publicity blitz to showcase its democratic credentials, with the rural roads and the streets of its bustling cities festooned with billboards of a hammer and sickle and the workers, farmers and soldiers synonymous with the stateÃs socialist foundations. The poster (1st L) reads: "Voting for members of the National Assembly and People's councils is a citizen's right." REUTERS/Kham SEARCH "COMMUNIST POSTERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A girl walks past a poster promoting the 14th National Assembly election on a street in Hanoi, Vietnam May 20, 2016. Communist Vietnam holds its five-yearly day of democracy on Sunday with an election for its parliament, and the only national poll in a country tightly controlled by one party for 41 years. The secretive Communist Party has been on a publicity blitz to showcase its democratic credentials, with the rural roads and the streets of its bustling cities festooned with billboards of a hammer and sickle and the workers, farmers and soldiers synonymous with the stateÃs socialist foundations. The words on the poster read: "Voting ballot." REUTERS/Kham SEARCH "COMMUNIST POSTERS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
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HANOI, May 22 (Reuters) - Vietnam will showcase its five-yearly day of democracy on Sunday with an election for a parliament tightly controlled by a Communist Party that is seeing unprecedented challenges to its four-decade political monopoly.

Some 69 million Vietnamese are registered to vote to choose representatives for a 500-seat National Assembly, with the ballot comprised overwhelmingly of candidates representing the secretive party or nominated by state institutions.

The election could turn out to be an anti-climax, after an astonishing swell of public interest in the scores of activists, celebrities and ordinary Vietnamese who tried to run as independent candidates, and it could test the sincerity of the party's promises of inclusiveness.

Almost all of the hopeful independents could not get on the ballot and were eliminated during the party's strict vetting processes, which many of them said was rigged to shut them out.

Among the failures was a well-known broadcaster who received unanimous support from a sample of constituents picked to judge him, and a teacher omitted because his dog defecated outside his neighbor's house.

The party has been on a publicity blitz to encourage people to vote.

Loudspeakers have been blaring on streets festooned with propaganda billboards, which feature the hammers and sickles and peasants and soldiers synonymous with the socialist ideology that vies for influence in a country with an insatiable appetite for capitalism.

"This is our proud right. All Vietnamese people have right and responsibility to vote and build the country," Nguyen Hanh Phuc, general secretary of the largely rubber stamp parliament, said on Friday.

Phuc insisted all 870 candidates would be treated equally, including those who are not party members and had nominated themselves to run as independents. There are only 11 self-nominated candidates.

Vietnam welcomes Obama

DEMOCRACY STUNTS

The attempt by more than 100 Vietnamese to take on the party in the election was among a series of stunts by activists and intellectuals to try to pressure the reclusive rulers to give the public a bigger say in politics.

Activists completely re-wrote a draft constitution the party had sought public feedback on, but their effort was ignored.

They have also sent open letters pressuring the top brass to get tough on China's maritime assertiveness.

The pro-democracy movement is holding its own parallel election on Sunday that aims to show public support for political plurality in a parliament for which independent candidates won only four seats last time.

A downloadable smartphone application "La Phieu" (vote) has been created allowing users to each cast one vote, pitting the independents who were eliminated against the real the party candidates.

The most famous of those who failed to get on the ballot was popular singer Mai Khoi, 32, who is likened to Lady Gaga and has been hankering for a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama when he visits Vietnam on Monday.

Mai Khoi wrote to Obama offering to sing for him and wants him to lean on the party leadership to make liberal concessions and overhaul election rules she said prevented her from raising issues in parliament.

"I want to meet with President Obama to urge him to push the Vietnamese government to implement the agreements that they have signed that would develop our democracy and human rights," she told Reuters.

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