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It’s official: Party chief Trong is Vietnam’s new president

Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong is now also Vietnam's new president.
Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong is now also Vietnam’s new president.

Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong has taken oath as Vietnam’s new president after a secret vote by the parliament.
Trong becomes the first person after Ho Chi Minh to simultaneously head the Party and executive branches of governance in Vietnam.

Earlier this month, he was unanimously nominated for the position by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam.

His name was the only one that the parliamentary standing committee recommended for the position.

“I swear to be loyal to my country, my people and the Vietnamese Constitution. I swear to fulfill my duty by the Party, the government and the people,” said Trong, taking the oath during the swearing-in ceremony that was broadcast live on national radio and television Tuesday afternoon.

“People may ask what I’m feeling right now, and I would say that I’m both happy and worried at the same time. Happy because the Party and the people have entrusted me with this mission. Worried because now I have to live up to my position and do my best for my country,” the new president said in a speech following the ceremony.

Trong’s assumption of the nation’s presidency gives him equal status with other heads of state in terms of diplomatic protocol, noted Emeritus Professor Carlyle Thayer from the University of New South Wales Canberra at the Australian Defence Force Academy.

In an emailed  Thayer said that Vietnam’s anti-corruption campaign is likely intensify with Trong’s latest ascension, given the numerous crackdowns on top businesspeople and government leaders that have already happened under the Party leader’s watch in recent years.

Huong Le Thu, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, shared Thayer’s assessment.

“[Vietnam’s] anti-corruption campaign will continue to ripple,” said Huong. At the moment, this change in Vietnam’s political scene will not affect the country’s economy directly, she said.

Analysts said that Vietnamese politics is venturing into uncharted waters from this moment forward, in terms of whether this policy will be persisted with when Trong’s terms as General Secretary and President expire in 2021.

Thayer said that “Vietnam will go through an experimental period of trial and error which is normal when political changes of this magnitude are made.”

Trong’s new position follows the death of former President Tran Dai Quang on September 21 due to a serious illness.

Vice President Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh was appointed acting president two days later, becoming the country’s first female head of state.

The president is the country’s top representative in both internal and external affairs, as well as commander-in-chief of the military.

Trong, born 1944 in Hanoi, studied Literature in university and spent many years working for the Communist Review, the political journal of the Vietnamese Communist Party, and was its editor in chief between 1991 and 1996.

He served as Hanoi’s Party Secretary between 2000 and 2006, before chairing Vietnam’s National Assembly for two consecutive terms.

Trong became a standing member of the Politburo, the Party’s decision-making body, in 1999.

In 2011, he became the General Secretary of the Party’s Central Committee, and was reelected to the position in 2016.