Vietnam’s National Assembly Approves New Chair, President Expected Soon

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Vietnam’s National Assembly Approves New Chair, President Expected Soon

The Vietnamese legislature is also expected to approve the elevation of To Lam, the powerful public security minister, to the presidency.

Vietnam’s National Assembly Approves New Chair, President Expected Soon
Credit: Depositphotos

Vietnam’s National Assembly today approved Tran Thanh Man as its new chairperson, one of several replacements of senior officials who have resigned recently in connection with the country’s anti-corruption campaign.

Man was approved in a unanimous vote as the replacement for Vuong Dinh Hue, who resigned due to “violations and shortcomings” last month.

According to Reuters, Man holds a doctorate in economics and had earlier served as chairman of the Mekong Delta province of Can Tho. The 61-year-old has served as deputy chairman of the parliament since 2021, the same year that he won a seat on the Politburo, the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV)’s top decision making body.

There was little doubt about the appointment, which was one of a number of personnel changes confirmed by the CPV’s Central Committee on Friday, when “a high level of consensus” was reached following “democratic discussions and careful consideration,” as party chief Nguyen Phu Trong said at the close of the session. The names were not revealed by the authorities until the following day.

The most significant appointment, which is expected to be formalized by the National Assembly this week, is the appointment of Public Security Minister To Lam as the replacement of President Vo Van Thuong, who stepped down in March after being accused of violating party rules, after little more than a year in the position. The Assembly is also set to approve four new members of the Politburo, who are similarly intended to replace officials who have been defenestrated for “violations” connected to the anti-corruption campaign.

According to Bui Van Cuong, the general secretary of the National Assembly, Lam will retain his ministerial post while serving as state president.

“The Politburo hasn’t nominated a new Minister of Public Security, and therefore the National Assembly will not vote to dismiss this post during its upcoming session,” Cuong told a press conference yesterday, according to a Reuters report.

The incoming appointments fill a number of the high-level positions that have been vacated over the past two years, as Trong’s “blazing furnace” anti-corruption campaign has swept through the highest levels of government.

From the beginning, the campaign has been difficult to separate from factional and personal rivalries, which in recent years have centered on the question of who will succeed the 80-year-old Trong as party chief, the most powerful position in Vietnam, when he steps down, most likely at the next CPV Party Congress in early 2026.

This is a game in which Lam has been well placed, perhaps uniquely so. After spending his entire career in the security apparatus, he was appointed as minister of public security in 2016, the year that Nguyen Phu Trong initiated the anti-corruption drive. He has since been a key figure in the execution of the campaign, while also serving as the deputy head of the Central Steering Committee on Anti-Corruption.

The investigative resources at Lam’s disposal have given him a powerful weapon against political rivals and allowed him to position himself in line to succeed Trong. They have also allowed him to survive his own brush with scandal in 2021, which came when he was photographed being fed a gold-encrusted steak at a London eatery owned by the culinary personality Salt Bae.

Whether Lam’s elevation to the largely ceremonial presidency positions him as the likely successor to Trong remains to be seen. While some viewed the promotion as a big win for Lam, Bill Hayton of Chatham House, a longtime observer of Vietnamese politics, argued that the public security minister had been effectively “kicked upstairs” and that Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh was now in “pole position” to succeed Trong as the head of the party. Hayton said that their rivalry reflected a power struggle between the army and the Ministry of Public Security.

Whatever the current reality, the Party Congress will not take place for another 18 months, leaving plenty of time for the main protagonists to write further chapters in Vietnam’s rolling political saga.