A Vietnamese political expert predicted that General Secretary cum President Nguyen Phu Trong will retire from the 13th Party Congress in 2021, and Tran Quoc Vuong is the leading candidate to become General Secretary.
Mr. Nguyen Phu Trong, born in 1944, has been the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) since 2011.
Long-time observer of Vietnam, Dr. Zachary Abuza, told the BBC:
“I do not think Mr. Nguyen Phu Trong will continue his positions for the next term, because he had a period of sick time, and he was once exempt from his age.”
In 2016, the CPV’s Central Committee agreed to a special case of over-age, Mr. Nguyen Phu Trong, to stay as its General Secretary.
Dr. Zachary Abuza, is a professor at National War College, Washington DC National War College, which was founded in 1946 now a National Defense University college, funded by the US Department of Defense.
The purpose of National War College is to train people for the US military, foreign ministry, and agencies responsible for US national security strategy.
Dr. Zachary Abuza predicted that Tran Quoc Vuong was “most likely” to become General Secretary after Mr. Trong.
Mr. Vuong, born in 1953, member of the 12th Politburo, was the chairman of the Central Inspection Committee and currently the Standing Secretary of the Secretariat.
Recently, the Central Committee of Propaganda and Education Nguyen Hong Dien revealed that the upcoming 13 th Politburo will have about 17-19 people.
The current Politburo for the 12th term has 19 seats, although in reality there are only 16, due to health problems, deaths and discipline.
Mr. Zachary Abuza commented that Politburo member Hoang Trung Hai was recently warned, so it is unlikely that Mr. Hai will be re-elected.
In addition, the Politburo currently has 7 people aged between 66 and 76 and most of them will likely retire.
Thus, Mr. Zachary Abuza predicts that the 13th Politburo may have only about 7 people left, paving the way for new faces.
“But the number of new people elected to the Politburo is never more than the number of former members.”
“Therefore, it is likely that one or more of the Politburo members over 65 will be allowed to stay, including Mr. Tran Quoc Vuong, now 67,” Abuza said.
Zachary Abuza did not think that Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc or National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan would become General Secretary “despite being fully qualified.”
“Mr. Tran Quoc Vuong has played an important role in the fight against corruption, whether it is legitimate investigation or political motive to silence Nguyen Phu Trong’s opponents.”
“I guess Mr. Nguyen Phu Trong has a lot of influence in choosing a new Politburo member. Especially when he will end his tenure with a very high reputation, thanks to economy, and win the Covid-19 pandemic.”
“The party must play a leading role”
In an interview with the BBC, Dr. Zachary Abuza also sincerely shared that he had misdiagnosed the results of the 12th Congress 2016.
“I thought a lot about why I was wrong in 2016. At that time, I didn’t think Trong would be re-elected, instead of then Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.”
“In my opinion, what Trong does at the 12th Congress is to reaffirm the Party’s authority. At that time, economic growth and modernization are putting more decisive authority in the hands of technocrats and officials.”
“That worries Trong because he wants the Party to play a leading role in every decision.”
Dr. Zachary Abuza thinks that this factor will also help Mr. Tran Quoc Vuong to become General Secretary.
Mr. Vuong served as the chief of the Supreme People’s Procuracy from 2007 to 2011, then held the Chief of the Party Central Office in July 2011.
In May 2013, he was additionally elected to the Secretariat.
In 2016, he was elected to the Politburo
Dr. Zachary Abuza said: “Mr. Tran Quoc Vuong has a career in Party apparatus.”
“In Vuong, Trong sees that he is an ally.”
“So if he is elected, what will it mean for Vietnam? The short answer is a continuation of the policy.”
Earlier, many observers also shared that Mr. Tran Quoc Vuong is the leading candidate for the position of the General Secretary.
Recently, Dr. Le Hong Hiep, working at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS-Yusof Ishak) in Singapore, said in an analysis: “More importantly, considering the lower-level anti-corruption campaign Trong’s leadership and the Party’s emphasis on the anti-corruption mission, it is very likely that Mr. Trong wants his successor to maintain his legacy and continue the fight against corruption. “
“Mr. Vuong, who used to be the Head of the Supreme People’s Procuracy and Head of the Central Inspection Committee, could be considered to meet more conditions to replace Trong.”
“With Mr. Trong having high control over the Party’s activities, especially in terms of personnel, Mr. Trong will be the decisive voice in the selection of his successor. As so, candidates who are supported by Trong will have a better chance of winning the election,” Hiep said.
Newspapers quoted Deputy Head of the Central Committee on Education and Propaganda Nguyen Hong Dien said on May 27 that the spirit of personnel of the Central Committee next term was “a higher percentage of new faces and young members ” but not exclusion “special cases” suitable to the practical situation.
Dien was quoted by the Youth, Youth, Dan Tri, and VietnamNet as saying that the staff of the 13th Party Central Committee will be 3 groups of age, under 50 accounting for 15-20%, from 50- 60 years old and over: 70%, and from 61 years and older accounted for around 10%.
The number of Central Committee’s members next tenure will remain the same as the 12th course, about 200 people, including 180 official members and 20 alternate members. Similarly, the number of Politburo members is likely to range from 17-19 members, the Secretariat from 12-13 members, Dien said.
The leader, Nguyen Phu Trong, was cited by the propaganda official as a prominent example of the exception despite being too old from the 12th tenure, as reported by the domestic press.
“Especially the head, General Secretary-President Nguyen Phu Trong, this special case is the happiness of the Party and people,” Dien was quoted by Thanh Nien, Tuoi. Young, Dân Trí, and VietnamNet.
Dien noted that in special cases, it is necessary to re-elect a new Central Committee that is “not within the prescribed age” that will be “scrutinized” by the Politburo and the Secretariat for discussion and submitted to the Central Committee for approval.
Commenting on the characters who can replace the General Secretary position in the next term, Duong Quoc Chinh, Facebook from Hanoi, commented:
In general, most of the provisions are quite vague, with no tools to measure and measure qualities such as: Having a passionate patriot spirit, ready to sacrifice for the cause of the Revolution. Exemplary of moral qualities; live honestly, modestly, sincerely, in a clean, simple and tolerant manner; need, thrift, integrity, righteousness, and carefree. No ambition of power, enthusiasm and high responsibility for the job; is a solidarity center, exemplary in all aspects. No corruption, wastefulness, opportunity, self-interest; resolutely fight to prevent and reverse the decline in political ideology, morality, lifestyle, manifestations of “self-evolution“, “self-transformation” internally, bureaucracy, corruption, and destruction extreme, wasteful, authoritarian and group interests; absolutely not profiteering nor letting relatives and acquaintances take advantage of their positions and powers to seek personal profits … in general, many criteria are required.
In fact, if you just follow these rules and let people denounce via Facebook, there will be no comrades qualified to be leaders!
However, the new regulation on leadership quality has a high reputation among the people. But the people have no way to give their opinions to the party other than slashing Facebook. This proves that the party will await feedback from Facebook about the reputation of the key leadership candidates.
The successor can be understood as the permanent deputy of the current leadership position. For example, with the Secretary-General, the successor is the Permanent Secretary of the secretariat.
The key cadres, which can be temporarily understood are the three pillars and the Standing Committee Secretariat. According to my personal opinion, the possibility of all three pillars retiring in the next term is high. Surely the General Secretary will rest.
As such, the possibility that Mr. Tran Quoc Vuong will be the only (or brightest) candidate for the position of General Secretary because he is both a key officer, a successor and had no scandals. There was no denunciation against him by the party’s enemies on Facebook. The rest of the Politburo members were almost always.
Incumbent PM Phuc seems to be the only candidate strong enough to challeng Vuong because he could reach the key criteria (Ms. Ngan was not considered because she was a female). But it is unlikely that Phuc will become the party’s leaders because he does not meet some criteria in age and other criteria.