Fewer independent candidates than in recent years are participating in this year’s vote for the 500-seat National Assembly.
Vietnamese wearing masks went to the polls on Sunday, and tens of millions were expected to select a legislature largely amid a rapidly spreading COVID-19 outbreak.
There are fewer independent candidates running in the 500-seat National Assembly, which is held every five years and usually after the ruling Communist Party holds its congress to select new leaders.
Despite the growing openness to social change in the Southeast Asian nation and a large number of free trade agreements, the Communist Party – one of the last ruling communist parties in the world – maintains close control over Vietnam and its media and tolerates little dissent.
The nearly 69.2 million registered voters will also vote for members of the popular councils at the provincial and district levels.
“I hope that all voters, knowing their role as owners of the country, will join the vote to select the most reliable and worthy candidates to represent their voices,” said National Assembly Speaker Vuong Dinh Hue, before the election.
About 92 percent of the candidates in the National Assembly are members of the Communist Party, which also oversees essentially the independent candidates.
The number of non-party candidates fell this year to 74 of the 97 in the previous 2016 election. Local media said the number of non-party MPs fell to half in the last three elections.
Official data shows that 99% of the 67.5 million registered voters in Vietnam participated in the 2016 elections.
The ballot is anonymous, but the name, age, occupation, ethnicity and address of each voter are posted outside the polls.
Elections are taking place as Vietnam fights a new outbreak of COVID-19 that has spread rapidly, infecting 2,066 people since it emerged in late April.
In Hanoi’s Long Bien district, about 30 voters were lined up by a polling booth for their turn, all wearing masks.
Before queuing, the temperature was taken to voters at a nearby table where masks and free hand sanitizer were offered, with a speaker conveying tips for keeping a safe distance.
Hue said Sunday’s vote was the first “in the midst of the most dangerous coronavirus outbreak that has spread to nearly half the number of provinces, with many of them closed.”
He said organizers have taken steps to ensure the elections run smoothly.
Election results are usually announced after about two weeks.