Vietnam has witnessed important changes in its leadership this week.
Nguyen Minh Triet (aged 63) was elected as Vietnam’s new President with 94% of the votes from the National Assembly. He was formerly the party chief of the Communist Party of Ho Chi Minh City, the main commercial hub of the country.
The former Deputy Premier Mr Nguyen Tan Dung (aged 56) was voted to be the next Prime Minister. He is the youngest Prime Minster of Vietnam since the end of the Vietnam war in 1975. He won 92% of the votes of the National Assembly.
Nguyen Phu Trong was voted as the chairman of the parliament.
This is the first time since the country was unified after the Vietnam war that both the country’s head of state and government are from the south. The BBC suggested that it reflected the importance of the south- “both as a source of economic growth but also talent and ideas” as well as that the Communist Party was now prepared to appoint the most suitable candidate without trying to balance appointments from the different parts of the country.
To make room for the new leaders, three of the previously top leaders officially resigned. They were Prime Minister Phan Van Khai (aged 72), President Tran Duc Luong (aged 69) and National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Van An (aged 69). The last top position, that of the party general secretary remained unchanged at the hands of Nong Duc Manh (aged 65).
Mr Dung announced the resignation of seven ministers to make room for a new government to be formed later. He called for the continued economic growth and promised to tackle government corruption. Dung has been groomed by the previous Prime Minister Khai for two terms and is, like his predecessor, seen to be a strong proponent for Vietnam’s 20 year reforms (“doi moi”). As a likely indication of his future priorities, Dung strongly criticised the outgoing Transport Minister Dao Dinh Binh for a massive corruption scandal involving a state-run highway company, Project Management Unit 18 (PMU18) where officials were said to have embezzled millions of dollars. Corruption has been seen as a major ill that would thwart development and the top leadership seemed to be signalling their will to tackle this problem.
In the area of foreign relations, the new President has indicated that he would be pushing for closer relations with both the US and China, an important balancing act that reflected Vietnam’s astute diplomacy.
Usually the Communist Party would pick government nominees a year before parliamentary confirmation. However, this year the process seems to have been speeded up. This is likely to allow the new leaders to participate in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit later this year. Vietnam is the host for APEC this year. The election of these new leaders also come at a time when Vietnam is poised to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO) (likely later this year).
Responses from the region and beyond were generally positive, expressing optimism for continued or greater political will towards economic reforms.
Vietnam Nguyen Minh Triet Elected as State President (Thai Press Reports, 29 June 2006)
Election of PM Clears Path for New Era in Vietnam; Expectations Rise for Reform as Old Guard Steps Aside (South China Morning Post, 28 June 2006)
Vietnam Elects Top Graft-Buster (The Australian, 28 June 2006)
Changing Times for Vietnam Politics (BBC News website, 27 June 2006)
Corruption Fighter New President (Northern Territory News [Australia], 28 June 2006)
Vietnam Gets New President, Prime Minister (Japan Economic Newswire, 27 June 2006)
News Analysis: Vietnam Rejuvenates Leadership (Xinhua General News, 27 June 2006)
Vietnam to Strengthen Foreign Relations, Administrative Reform: State President (Xinhua General News, 27 June 2006)
Vietnam National Assembly Names Nguyen Minh Triet President (AFX-Asia, 27 June 2006)
Roundup: Communist Vietnam Names Reformer Dung as New Prime Minister (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 27 June 2006)
Viet President wants closer ties with US, China (Straits Times, 30 June 2006)