Party to replace village chiefs

Trong was sworn in as state president in October in addition to his role as Communist party leader.

The Vietnamese Communist party is attempting to rebuild its strength at the grassroots level as part of a strategy to reinforce its authority.

It plans to replace thousands of village chiefs and other local officials with party members.

President Nguyen Phu Trong is on a mission to reverse what he sees as years of decline, during which the Communist party and its Marxist ideology faded to an abstraction for many young Vietnamese.

He wants to instil ideological purity among the membership, improve the party’s tarnished reputation on corruption, intimidate and imprison dissidents and regain the party’s once rigid control over information.

State media said that thousands of village heads, as many as thirty per cent of the total,were not members of the Communist party and so were not a reliable conduit to communicate party directives to the population.

Instructions have been given to local party committees to evaluate existing officials and to decide whether they should be co-opted as party members.

Those not considered suitable face replacement by existing members.

Mr Trong has frequently bemoaned young people’s “loss of trust in revolutionary ideals”.

He says they are vulnerable to manipulation by what he calls hostile forces that run counter to the party’s direction.

His solution is a drive for more intense Marxist education and propaganda and the re-establishment of the party at the centre of government at all levels.

Since reinforcing his leadership of the party in 2016, Mr Trong has sought to reverse what he saw as the corruption of party ideals under the more freewheeling administration of his great political rival, the former prime minister, Nguyen Tan Dung.

His aim is to give the party leadership the central role in all aspects of policy and enforcement – an ambitious task given Vietnam’s traditions of collective leadership, complex party-state ties, and entrenched local governments and fiefdoms.

Mr Trong has used a high profile anti-corruption campaign to rebuild trust in the party and to cow any would-be political rivals.

In recent months he has made clear that the party expects absolute loyalty from the police force. He is now turning his attention to local government leaders who may have become used to a degree of independent action.

His assumption of the presidency this year, in addition to his existing role as general-secretary of the Communist party, has also helped enhance the visibility and central role of the party leadership.