KHÁNH HÒA — Soldier Nguyễn Phi Khanh, who is on duty on the Trường Sa (Spratly) Islands, south-central Khánh Hòa Province, is eagerly awaiting May's elections on Đá Đông small island (Eastern Reef) to cast his ballot for the first time.
Khanh will be among the first to vote in Việt Nam for the elections of deputies to the 15th National Assembly and People’s Councils as those living and working on the islands of Trường Sa Township and the communes of Sinh Tồn and Song Tử Tây will go to the polls on May 16, a week ahead of the official election day.
“I hope that my ballots will help select suitable deputies who pay attention to local livelihoods, especially those living on sea and islands,” Khanh told the Vietnam News Agency.
Almost a week from election day, the islands in Trường Sa District have been decorated with banners and posters. Local residents and soldiers are able to study candidates’ information and voting rules at various public venues.
Despite the spartan facilities, preparations for voting on the islands are basically completed.
Communications campaigns have been broadcast on the radio so fishermen can also stay abreast of election matters. If they are fishing at sea on election day, they can vote on any island within Trường Sa Island District.
Lieutenant Colonel Nguyên Như Tuyến, a political officer of Sơn Ca (Sand Cay) Island, said all maritime soldiers and officers performing duties on the island have been updated about election laws.
Lê Đình Hải, chairman of Trường Sa Island District People’s Committee, said election preparatory work has been conducted like it is on the mainland. The law on the election has been disseminated to soldiers and local people through various forms of communication.
The election council of Trường Sa Township has held three consultation conferences, prepared voters’ cards and published lists of candidates.
“Everything is ready for the big day,” he said.
Trường Sa Township has eight smaller islands located far from each other. Many fishermen who work offshore cannot return in time to cast their ballots. The local election council has prepared standby voters’ cards for those fishermen in case they can return to vote.
On election day, boats carrying ballots will go to small islands to make sure every citizen can practise their rights.
According to Lưu Hồng Vân, deputy head of communication and education division of the Khánh Hòa Province Party Committee, fishermen from other areas who pass by the sea area of Khánh Hòa and cannot return home to vote can cast their ballots in Khánh Hòa Province.
Huỳnh Đức Phong, living on Sinh Tồn (Sin Cowe) Island, said the Party and the State have paid attention to families living on the sea like his. Investment in healthcare, education and entertainment on the island makes island residents like him no longer feel far from the mainland.
“I hope the elected deputies who are trusted by voters will take care of local livelihoods, especially those living in difficult circumstances,” he said.
Hồ Sinh has been fishing off the Trường Sa Islands for 45 years. He spends most of his time offshore but he said despite how busy he was, he would dock his boat to go ashore and vote.
Captain Đỗ Xuân Tới, a political officer on Song Tử Tây (Southwest Cay) Island, hoped the State would have practical solutions to realise the Vietnamese maritime economy’s sustainable development strategy by 2030, helping Trường Sa Islands to become stronger and a solid fulcrum for fishermen to exploit, catch fish, protect the sovereignty of the country.
Given its special geographical location and working conditions, besides 20 electoral units on Trường Sa Islands, many constituencies nationwide have been allowed to hold early voting so voters can exercise citizens’ rights and responsibilities.
According to Article 72 of the law on election of deputies to the National Assembly and People’s Councils, in special circumstances that call for the voting date to be delayed or early voting to be held, election committees will propose early voting to the National Election Council (NEC).
Basing on the proposals submitted by local election committees, the NEC has permitted some constituencies in 12 provincial-level localities, namely Hải Phòng, Cần Thơ, Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu, Bình Định, Cà Mau, Đắk Nông, Hậu Giang, Kiên Giang, Khánh Hòa, Quảng Nam, Quảng Bình, and Nghệ An, to conduct voting ahead of the scheduled date. — VNS