History in the making: Party chief set to become Vietnam’s new president

By Phan Anh, Hoang Thuy   October 22, 2018 | 02:34 am PT
History in the making: Party chief set to become Vietnam’s new president
Vietnam's General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong is now the only candidate for the president post. Photo by Vietnam News Agency
Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong was the only presidential candidate announced by the National Assembly on Monday.

The assembly's Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan made the announcement during the 6th session of the 14th National Assembly (NA), scheduled to last 24 days beginning Monday.

Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong was unanimously nominated for the position by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam earlier this month, and his name is the only one that the parliamentary standing committee has recommended.

The parliament will ratify the candidate using an electronic voting system before electing a new president by secret ballot Tuesday morning.

The vote’s result will be announced in the afternoon, after which the new president would be sworn in, with the ceremony broadcast live on national radio and television.

If the NA votes for the appointment, Trong will become the first Vietnamese leader to be the head of state and the Party since founding President Ho Chi Minh.

If Trong becomes the president, he would have equal status with other heads of state in diplomatic protocol terms, said Emeritus Professor Carlyle Thayer from the University of New South Wales Canberra at the Australian Defence Force Academy in an emailed response to VnExpress International.

He said Trong’s assuming the position would not signal any major shift in either Vietnam’s economic policy or its fight against corruption. In fact, by holding two offices, Trong would be able to better cut through bureaucratic red tape and implement policy decisions quicker.

Combined with his strong stance on fighting corruption, evident in numerous crackdowns on top businesspeople and government leaders, “the country’s anti-corruption campaign against high officials is likely to intensify,” Thayer said.

“Vietnam will go through a period of trial and error, which is normal when political changes of this magnitude are made.” 

He also said that Trong will be very busy and it may be necessary to create special assistant positions to take on the increased responsibility for Party and Government affairs in this new situation.

Currently, Vietnam’s acting President is Vice President Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh, who is serving as Vietnam's first female head of state in place of President Tran Dai Quang who passed away on September 21 due to a serious illness.

The president is the country’s top representative in both internal and external affairs, as well as commander-in-chief of the military.

Vietnam’s leadership structure now has four pillars: Party chief, president, prime minister and national assembly chair.

Trong, born 1944 in Hanoi, studied Literature in university and spent many years working for the Communist Review, the political journal of the Vietnamese Communist Party, and was its editor in chief between 1991 and 1996.

He served as Hanoi's Party Secretary between 2000 and 2006, before chairing Vietnam's National Assembly for two consecutive terms.

Trong became a standing member of the Politburo, the Party's decision-making body, in 1999.

In 2011, he became the General Secretary of the Party's Central Committee, and was reelected to the position in 2016.

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