Names of Vietnam’s Next Top Leaders Circulate Despite Warnings Against Leaks

2021-01-19
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Names of Vietnam’s Next Top Leaders Circulate Despite Warnings Against Leaks Nguyen Phu Trong (L) and Nguyen Xuan Phuc (C) are shown with National Assembly chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan (R) in Hanoi, Nov. 12, 2020.
AFP

The names of Vietnam’s likely next top leaders have emerged a week before the start of a ruling Communist Party Congress on Jan. 25 despite threats of punishment against leakers of what the country’s government calls secret information.

Decided at a Party plenary meeting held on Jan. 18, the list of candidates for the country’s top jobs has now circulated widely on social media and in other reports, with two candidates designated “special cases” because they have already passed the customary age for retirement.

Named on the list are Nguyen Phu Trong as general secretary of the Communist Party, and Nguyen Xuan Phuc, who would move from prime minister to state president. Moving into the upper ranks are Pham Minh Chinh as prime minister, and Vuong Dinh Hue as chairman of Vietnam’s National Assembly.

The plenary meeting, the Party’s 15th and the last to be held under the five-year term of the outgoing leadership group, served as preparation for the 13th National Party Congress, a meeting held to select top leaders and approve economic policies for the next five years, and scheduled to run from Jan. 25 to Feb. 2.

During the congress, some 1,600 national delegates will vote to elect the 200 members of the Central Committee, who will then choose the politburo, which usually consists of 17 to 19 members, including its general secretary.

Nguyen Phu Trong, 76, and likely to continue now as party chief, is one of the two designated “special cases” now predicted to continue in a top government post beyond official retirement age and beyond a second term.

“The politburo could not reach a consensus about who to recommend as his successor at the 14th plenum. Therefore, according to some sources, he [Trong ] may continue to stay in his role until a successor is found to maintain the one-party regime,” said analyst Pham Quy Tho.

Carlyle Thayer, emeritus professor at the University of New South Wales, said that Trong will either "serve a full five-year term” or “step down when consensus is reached in the new Central Committee on who should replace him.”

'Realistic policies, economic success'

The other special case is Nguyen Xuan Phuc, aged 67 and now named as Vietnam’s likely next president.

“Political analysts are asking why, despite his achievements, he was not chosen for a second term as prime minister,” said Tho.

Phuc “has created realistic policies and successfully overseen the economy, maintaining production and achieving a growth rate of nearly 3 percent while also being effective in combatting COVID-19,” the analyst said.

“And his success in managing natural disasters, such as the storms and floods in the Central region, has also left a positive impression,” added Tho.

Pham Minh Chinh, now head of the Central Committee’s Organization Commission, is now predicted to be chosen as prime minister, and Vuong Dinh Hue, now party chief for Hanoi city, is predicted to be named chairman of the National Assembly.

The list of candidates for the politburo’s offices was designated in November as secret by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

In a stern warning to potential candidates and media, an official overseeing the confidential election then said that anyone responsible for leaking or publishing “false or secret” information about the process would be punished under Vietnamese law.

On Jan. 10, more than 600 military personnel, police, and health workers, along with many armored vehicles, took part in a drill in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi to prepare for the congress, with politburo member and organizing subcommittee head Tran Quoc Vuong saying the country’s military would not “neglect their duty” in guaranteeing the event’s safety and success.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Huy Le. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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