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Vietnam elects new president

Vietnamese legislators on Tuesday elected the Communist Party chief for Ho Chi Minh City as the country’s new president.
/ Source: Reuters

A Vietnamese politician with a reputation for fighting corruption became the communist-run country’s new president on Tuesday as part of a changing of the guard to a group of younger leaders.

The National Assembly, or parliament, confirmed the appointment of Nguyen Minh Triet, 63, Communist Party chief in the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City, in a session opened to the media.

In a speech to the deputies, Triet promised to “build and strengthen national unity, continue building a law-governed socialist state which is by the people and for the people.”

Bespectacled Triet, dressed in a long-sleeved white shirt and gold and black tie, stepped from the stage and exchanged a comradely embrace with Vietnam’s top leader, Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh, and other officials.

Vietnam, one of only a handful of communist-ruled countries in the world, has seen its economy expand rapidly in recent years, but government and society are plagued by corruption.

Triet takes over from Tran Duc Luong, 69, who retired after serving two five-year terms as president of the Southeast Asian country of 83 million. The job is the third most important in the system after Party general secretary and prime minister.

Later on Tuesday, the assembly was expected to confirm a new prime minister to replace Phan Van Khai, 72, who also retired. As expected, new President Triet nominated Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, 56, who has been groomed for the premiership for eight years.

The leadership changes and other cabinet positions were decided at April’s five-yearly party National Congress but were being formalized by parliament this week, officials said.

On Monday, deputies confirmed Hanoi politician and sociologist Nguyen Phu Trong, 62, as chairman of the increasingly influential legislature in an era of economic and legal reforms.

In Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), Triet’s campaign in 2002 against top mafia boss Nam Cam led to the arrests of a deputy police minister and several officials.

Triet’s anti-graft credentials fit with the Party’s promises to do more to fight corruption, which leaders acknowledge threatens their rule and the goal of lifting the country out of poverty in the next 10 to 15 years.

The younger leaders are coming to power as Vietnam prepares to join the World Trade Organization this year. In November, they will be on an international stage for the first time when the capital Hanoi hosts the summit of the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.