Vietnam’s ruling party adds 4 new members to top echelon

The Communist Party’s Politburo lost a third of members in anti-corruption campaign.
By RFA Staff
2024.05.17
Vietnam’s ruling party adds 4 new members to top echelon The 9th plenum of the Vietnamese communist party’s central committee opened on Thursday May 16, 2024.
Vietnam government portal

UPDATED on May 17, 2024 at 2:23 a.m. ET.

Leaders of the Communist Party of Vietnam have appointed four new members to the party’s top echelon, the Politburo, to replace members removed in the course of a campaign against graft.

They are Le Minh Hung, Nguyen Trong Nghia, Do Van Chien and Bui Thi Minh Hoai, the only woman in the new 16-strong executive organ of the party’s Central Committee.

The committee, representing Vietnam’s 5.3 million communists, is holding a three-day plenum to vote on a number of key positions of the state and the government before they are approved by the rubberstamp National Assembly when it meets on May 20.

Vietnam is a single-party state and all top jobs are held by members of the Communist Party. 

Since January 2023, six Politburo members have left their posts after being accused of serious violations of party regulations during an anti-corruption campaign spearheaded by the party’s secretary general, Nguyen Phu Trong.

The campaign, dubbed the “blazing furnace,” has seen the departure of some most senior officials including former Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, former President Vo Van Thuong and former National Assembly chairman Vuong Dinh Hue, leading to an unprecedented reshuffle within a party that has always emphasized unity and political stability.

Just on Thursday, during the plenum’s first session, the Central Committee accepted the resignation of Truong Thi Mai, permanent member of the party’s central secretariat and head of its organization commission. Her positions were given to Luong Cuong and Le Minh Hung, respectively.

The senior cadres have until Monday to decide who to appoint to two key positions – Vietnam state president and chairman of the National Assembly – which have been vacant since Thuong and Hue left.

“Vietnam finds itself in an unprecedented personnel crisis,” said Carl Thayer, a veteran Vietnam watcher and emeritus professor at the Australian Defence Force Academy.

“This is not the end of the matter and there may well be continued infighting along the 19-month path to the 14th national party congress,” Thayer told RFA, referring to the important five-yearly meeting of the communist party slated to take place in January 2026.

Costly non-action

The “blazing furnace” campaign, seen as “a system purification” by supporters but as a purge by some critics, appears to have led to administrative paralysis that has severely impeded the flow of aid and investment into Vietnam.

Vietnam has missed out on at least US$2.5 billion in foreign aid over the last three years, and may lose another $1 billion, because of it, Reuters reported, citing a letter from the United Nations, the World Bank and Western donors.

The unpublished letter to Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, dated March 6, shows the “frustration among foreign investors over regulatory hurdles and lengthy approval procedures that have caused prolonged deadlock,” according to Reuters.

"Approximately $1 billion in development funding is awaiting approval, with an additional $2.5 billion returned due to funding expirations," it said.

There has not been any comment from Vietnamese officials about the Reuters report.

State media has said that during the plenum, party officials discuss important issues related to economic planning and development.

The newly restructured Politburo has five members with an economics background or a degree in economics. The youngest member, Le Minh Hung, 53, is a former state bank governor.

Five other members have a background in public security and three come from the military.

Analysts have been focusing on To Lam, the current minister of public security, believed to be one of the main figures behind the “blazing furnace” campaign. 

Although there are still several gates to pass through, “if Lam is elected to become the leader of the party in the future, we can expect to see a continuation of Trong’s ‘blazing furnace’ campaign,” said Thayer. 

“And we can expect to see repression against civil society leaders and activists,” he added.

Edited by Mike Firn and Taejun Kang.

Updated to add comments from Carl Thayer.

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