The revision retains the wording of the original constitution, adopted in 1992 that affirms the leading role of the Communist Party.

“There is no essential change but there are a few setbacks compared with the 1992 constitution,” economist Nguyen Quang A said.

The amendment states that land rights can be revoked for socio-economic projects and the armed forces must be loyal to the party, he said.

Quang A was among a group of intellectuals who signed a petition earlier in the year calling for changes in the constitution to include free and fair elections and private ownership of land.

The petition was posted on several popular blogs after the government launched a public consultation on a proposed draft.

The amendment passed Thursday was even “a setback in comparison with the first draft,” Quang A said, because it reaffirmed that the state must play a central role in the economy — a point the proposed draft had removed.

State companies, once the cornerstone of the socialist-oriented market economy, have fallen from grace. Riddled by mismanagement and corruption, the sector has racked up debts of 60 billion dollars, equivalent to half of annual gross domestic product.

The amendment was passed by all attending delegates at the assembly, newspaper Tuoi Tre reported.

Deutsche Presse Agentur - November 28, 2013