Dung sidelined ? Reports of upset at party meeting

Nguyen Phu Trong is reported to have emerged victorious from the meeting. Photo courtesy AFP.

Nguyen Phu Trong is reported to have emerged victorious from the meeting. Photo courtesy AFP.

State media have reported that the Central Committee of the Communist Party has reached “an overwhelming consensus” on the country’s new leadership.

Unconfirmed reports indicated that the long time favourite to succeed as party boss, the two-term prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung, had been sidelined after a bruising political confrontation.

The reports, which surfaced on social media and in the foreign press, said that the veteran conservative and current general-secretary of the party, Nguyen Phu Trong, would continue in his post for at least another year.

Whatever the decision, the new leadership must first be ratified at the 12th Party Congress which opens next week.

Some observers suggest that it would be unwise to discount the ambitious Mr Dung until the results are officially announced.

Long seen as favourite

The Vietnam News Agency reported no names when it announced the conclusions from the Central Committee meeting.

It quoted Mr Trong as saying that the participants “discussed and reviewed a report on personnel preparation at the meeting in a democratic and responsible manner.”

Radio Free Asia quoted unidentified sources as saying that Mr Trong would stay in his post for half of a five year term.

It said the new president would be the current internal security chief, Tran Dai Quang, while the deputy prime minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, would become prime minister.

Mr Dung has long been seen as the clear favourite to emerge as general-secretary.

During his two terms as prime minister he has presented himself as more open, dynamic and reform oriented than his rivals. He is closely associated with the Trans-Pacific Partnership and closer relations with the United States, at the expense of ties with Beijing.

Family’s wealth

“A coalition has emerged around the general secretary and state president to block Nguyen Tan Dung,” said Carl Thayer, an expert on Vietnamese politics and director of the Thayer Consultancy.

He said that Dung’s opponents appeared to have raised questions about his family’s wealth.

The prime minister has come under attack from his opponents in recent years over his economic management of the country and widely circulated allegations of corruption.

Many analysts thought, however, that he had overcome the challenge and built a strong enough power base on the Central Committee.

If Mr Trong’s victory is confirmed, analysts expect Vietnam to continue on a cautious path.

Mr Trong has shown signs of adopting a more pragmatic, and less rigidly ideological approach, in recent months.

His visit to Washington in July last year was seen as an important signal of his new flexibility.

However, proponents of political and economic reform and much closer ties with Washington will be deeply disappointed by the result if it is endorsed by the party congress.