Women under-represented in local elections: report says hinh anh 1Votes cast to elect the chairman of the People's Committee of An Binh Commune in southern Binh Duong Province. (Photo: binhduong.gov.vn)
Women are under-represented in local elections, according to a report released at a recent policy dialogue in Hanoi.

Forty percent of women said someone else had voted on their behalf in the last election, the report found. Proxy voting by family members is legal in village-level elections in rural areas and at the residential-group level in urban areas.

The report was conducted by Oxfam Vietnam and the UN Development Programme in Vietnam with participation from 106 people in the first six months of the year in three provinces: Hoa Binh, Quang Tri and Ninh Thuan.

The report aimed to analyse citizen participation in the policy-making process, and provide recommendations for improved governance in Vietnam. It also found that citizen monitoring of local governments' performances was not effective.

Voters saw education level and trust as the most important characteristics in choosing elected representatives, rather than their positions on policies, according to the report.

Citizens in Quang Tri said that candidates for village head should be hardworking, successful and active in community events.

Andrew Wells-Dang, the report's research team leader, said the report also gave recommendations to the Government. It recommended ending the practice of proxy voting to ensure the direct voting rights of women in accordance with Constitutional requirements for "universal, equal, direct and secret suffrage," he said.

It also suggested forming a citizen supervision committee under the oversight of the People's Councils, which could help citizens monitor officials' performances.

Speaking at the policy dialogue, Dinh Xuan Thao, head of the National Assembly's Institute of Legislature, said that in June the NA adopted the Law on the Organisation of Local Government.

Following the law, People's Committees and People's Councils are required to hold at least one meeting to answer questions from local citizens each year. The move aimed to improve the accountability of local authorities, Thao said.

Nguyen Thi Le Hoa, Associate Country Director of Oxfam Vietnam, said the report was released in preparation for the 12th National Party Congress and elections for a new National Assembly for 2016-20 set to be held in 2016.-VNA