- New president elected after sudden resignation of predecessor
- Thuong is seen as close to Communist Party’s leader Trong
- Thuong said he will continue anti-graft crackdown
By Khanh Vu and Francesco Guarascio
HANOI, March 2 (Reuters) – Vietnam’s National Assembly on Thursday elected Vo Van Thuong as the country’s new president, in a reshuffle of the country’s top leadership amid a sweeping anti-graft campaign.
In an extraordinary session, lawmakers confirmed Thuong, 52, after the ruling Communist Party nominated him on Wednesday as president, a largely ceremonial role but one of the top four political positions in the Southeast Asian nation.
Thuong’s election follows the sudden resignation in January of his predecessor Nguyen Xuan Phuc, who the party blamed for “violations and wrongdoing” by officials under his control, in what was seen as a major escalation of the country’s “blazing furnace” anti-corruption crackdown.
In his first speech to the parliament as new president, Thuong said he will “resolutely” continue the fight against corruption.
“I will be absolutely loyal to the fatherland, the people and the constitution, striving to fulfill the tasks assigned by the party, the state and the people,” Thuong said in a statement broadcast on Vietnam’s state television.
Thuong is the youngest member of the party’s Politburo, the country’s top decision-making body, and is considered a veteran of the party having begun his political career at university in communist youth organisations.
He is widely regarded as being close to General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, Vietnam’s most powerful figure and the main architect of the party’s battle against corruption.
“The burning furnace campaign will not cool down in the foreseeable future,” said Florian Feyerabend, the representative in Vietnam for Germany’s Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a think tank.
Diplomats and businesspeople have raised concerns about the anti-graft campaign because it has paralysed many routine transactions in Vietnam as officials fear being entangled in the crackdown.
A Hanoi-based diplomat said Thuong’s election was a major step by General Secretary Trong amid jockeying to succeed him, given the 78-year-old leader may step down before the end of his third term in 2026.
The general secretary is usually chosen from among one of the top leaders.
Thuong was elected with 98.38% of the votes, according to the parliament’s online portal.
Analysts and investors viewed the election as indicating continuity in the country’s foreign and economic policies.
“There will be no major changes to Vietnam’s foreign policy following Thuong’s election,” said Le Hong Hiep, senior fellow and Vietnam expert at Singapore’s ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute.
A Vietnam-based foreign investor, who declined to be named, said the elections put an end to uncertainty caused by the sudden dismissal of the former president.
“It means stability and predictability is restored,” he said.
Vietnam is a major recipient of foreign investment, with business leaders often citing its political stability as a key reason for investing.