Party in a hurry as reshuffle gathers pace

Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan takes the oath of office. Courtesy VNA.

Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan takes the oath of office. Courtesy VNA.

Vietnam is moving quickly to install its reshuffled leadership following a contentious Communist party congress in January.

The National Assembly formally elected the veteran party insider, Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, as its first female chairperson.

The move comes before elections for the National Assembly scheduled for May and opens the way for the appointment of a new president and prime minister.

The orchestrated nature of the transition sends a signal that Vietnam is settling back into its placid tradition of collective leadership, following the disruption of an internal power struggle in recent years.

The struggle of pro-democracy activists and other independents to get elected to the national assembly is receiving virtually no coverage in the state controlled media.

Officials say the reshuffle is happening faster than normal in order to inject vigour into the administration.

Others see a rush to remove the incumbents, particularly the outgoing prime minister, Nguyen Tan Dung, who lost out after mounting a determined challenge for the leadership of the party.

The moves may also be motivated by a desire to have the new team in place in time for President Obama’s expected visit in May.

The National Assembly is largely a rubber stamp body with none of the policy making powers of the Communist party’s Central Committee and Politburo.

However, the post of chairperson is regarded as prestigious. It is one of the leadership positions known as the “four pillars” along with the post of general-secretary of the party, state president and prime minister.

Mrs Ngan was the deputy chairperson of the assembly and has held senior government positions culminating in her elevation to the politburo in January.

She won just over 95% of the vote in the assembly, which was seen as a mere formality following the decisions taken in January.

“I would like to thank the National Assembly for electing me,” she said after the ballot.
“I vow my resolute loyalty to the nation, the people, and the constitution.”

She is from the south of the country, part of a convention that reserves two of the top posts for southerners but keeps the leadership of the party in the hands of a northerner.

Nguyen Xuan Phuc is expected to be appointed Vietnam’s next prime minister, and the minister of public security, Tran Dai Quang, will be appointed president.