A New Era in Leadership

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Vietnam is experiencing its highest level of international attention in nearly a decade. The country is going through a major leadership transition, starting with the Communist Party Congress that took place in January. The all-important political event saw the surprising departure of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, arguably one of Vietnam’s most powerful political figures since 1975. Nine Politburo members and 14 cabinet ministers also retired. The only exception to the retirement age requirement of 65, made specifically for this Party Congress, is General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, who will retain his office for another term. A new era is setting in with the inauguration of the other three most important positions, namely the president, prime minister and national assembly chair. Collective leadership is to be enforced in this term, and the new team will work to ensure stability in the country.

National Assembly First Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan is well regarded and expected to keep pushing economic reforms. President Tran Dai Quang’s background in security fits well in his new role as commander-in-chief of the military and chairman of the Council for Defense and Security. Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s leadership style is perhaps a more open question for now, but his experience in domestic affairs and anti-graft will likely keep reforms apace. With 14 out of 22 ministers being new to their posts, the government is geared for widespread changes. Some movements can already be observed at the local level, with a strong agenda for administrative reforms in Ho Chi Minh City run by the new city Party Chief Dinh La Thang, the “populist” former transportation minister. The actual outcomes, however, remain to be seen.

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