Communist Hard-Liners Ascendant in Vietnam, Despite TPP Membership

Communist Hard-Liners Ascendant in Vietnam, Despite TPP Membership
Delegates raise up their membership cards during the closing ceremony of the Vietnam Communist Party's 12th National Congress, Hanoi, Jan. 28, 2016 (Pool photo by Hoang Dinh Nam).

PHNOM PENH—Conservative forces have strengthened their grip in Vietnam after the ruling Communist Party, late last month, elected its incumbent general-secretary to a second five-year term in the country’s top political office. Analysts say the reappointment of Nguyen Phu Trong, 71, will put a brake on political and economic reforms, but it is unlikely to significantly alter the balance of the country’s crucial relationships with China and the United States.

The decision also spelled an end to the ambitions of the reformist Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, who mounted a short-lived challenge for the Community Party’s top post before its 12th National Congress last week. Trong is said to have used his influence in the Politburo, Vietnam’s top decision-making body, to quash Dung’s bid for the leadership. The prime minister pulled out of the contest on Jan. 25, after failing to win sufficient support among the 1,510 party delegates.

Agreement on leadership changes is traditionally reached well in advance of the Communist Party’s showcase convention, which is held every five years. Trong will head the 19-member Politburo that will govern Vietnam until 2021, while Dung will remain in office until a new government takes over later this year.

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