HANOI (Reuters) – Tens of millions of mask-wearing Vietnamese were expected to vote on Sunday to select a largely rubber-stamp legislature amid a rapidly spreading COVID-19 outbreak in the country.
Fewer independent candidates than before are standing in the election for the 500-seat National Assembly, which is held every five years and usually after the ruling Communist Party holds its congress to select a new leadership.
Nearly 69.2 million registered voters are expected to select from 866 candidates for the parliament. They will also vote for members of the people’s councils at provincial and district levels.
“I hope all voters, knowing their role as the owners of the country, will join the vote to select the most trusted and worthy candidates to represent their voices,” National Assembly chairman Vuong Dinh Hue said ahead of the election.
Of the candidates standing for the National Assembly, some 92% are party members and 8% are independents.
The number of independent candidates this year fell to 74 from the 97 in the previous elections in 2016, while local media say the number of assembly deputies who were not party members halved over the last three elections.
Official data show that 99% of Vietnam’s 67.5 million registered voters participated in the 2016 elections. The ballot is anonymous, but each voter’s name, age, occupation, ethnicity and address are posted outside polling centres.
The election is taking place as the Southeast Asian country is battling a new COVID-19 outbreak that is spreading rapidly, infecting around 2,000 people since it emerged in late April.
State media reports said voters in some remote areas and in a centralised quarantine centre in Bac Ninh province voted early on Saturday. The province is part of the epicentre of the new outbreak.
Organisers wearing hazmat suits were seen spraying disinfectant on a ballot box, which was then brought to each voter in the quarantine centre for the vote, a video clip on VTC News showed.
“This is the first time we have held an election amid the most dangerous coronavirus outbreak that has spread to nearly half of the number of provinces, with many of them under lockdown,” Hue said.
Hue said the organisers of the election have taken measures to ensure the election will take place in a safe manner.
Election results are typically announced after about two weeks.
(Reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by William Mallard)
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