Updated at 9:02 PM EST on January 17, 2023
The Communist Party of Vietnam has forced President Nguyen Xuan Phuc to resign to take responsibility for the COVID-19 bribery scandal that broke out during his term, state media reported Tuesday.
The ouster of Phuc, widely rumored on social media in Vietnam, not only assigns political responsibility for the major COVID scandal but also reflects a deeper power struggle at the top of the one-party state, analysts say. said.
The party’s Central Committee has decided to remove Phuc, 68, from all duties, including as a member of the Politburo and the Party’s Central Committee and chairman of the Defense and Security Council for the 2021-2026 term. vietnam news Said.
The Central Committee will accept Phuc’s resignation on Tuesday, and parliament will confirm his resignation and replacement on Wednesday.
The Central Committee praised Phuc for leading Vietnam’s efforts to bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control during the final years of his term as prime minister from 2016 to 2021, according to state media.
But members must take ultimate responsibility for the number of party cadres accused of corruption scandals involving COVID test kits and ‘rescue flight’ airfare, including two deputy prime ministers and three ministers. Said there was.
On January 5, Vietnam’s parliament voted to replace deputy prime ministers Pham Binh Minh and Vu Duc Dam with party leaders Tran Hong Ha and Tran Lu Quang.
Mr. Min oversaw diplomatic relations during a “relief flight” incident in which officials were bribed to repatriate citizens stranded abroad due to the coronavirus pandemic.
When the CEO of healthcare company Viet A admitted that he bribed officials for a deal to sell substandard COVID test kits to hospitals, Dam threw healthcare away. was the deputy prime minister in charge.
Viet A CEO bribed officials worth $34 million to win a contract to sell substandard kits to hospitals at a 45% markup, leaving his company $172 million has made a profit.
The Viet A scandal also ousted Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long, who was arrested on June 7, 2022, and Hanoi Mayor and former Science and Technology Minister Chu Ngoc Anh.
Vietnam’s presidency is largely ceremonial, but Mr. Phuc was seen as a reassuring figure for Vietnamese businesses and foreign investors.
Zachary Abza, a professor at the National War College in Washington, said, “Ostensibly Hooke was forced to resign because of a high-level government corruption scandal, but this is a high-level power struggle.
“This is bare politics as elites seek to consolidate their wealth and power. The era of collective leadership is over. This is the era of rent-seeking, accumulation of power, and greed.” ‘ he wrote. Commentary for RFA.
According to Abza, the dismissal of Phuc, Minh and Dam represents the victory of General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong over the party’s technocrats and the transfer of power to the party leader attached to the Ministry of Public Security.
Among Phuc’s succession scenarios, some analysts say the party could appoint Trong as party leader and president in 2018 after President Tran Dai Quang died in office. .
“According to my information, there are three candidates who could become president. said Carl Thayer, a Vietnam expert and professor at the Australian Defense Force Academy in Canberra.
“The other two candidates are Defense Minister Phan Van Giang and Public Security Minister Lam,” he told RFA.
Le Hong Hiep, a Vietnam political observer at the Singapore-based ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, also identified Lam as a possible successor to Phuc.
“Ram appears to have earned Tron’s trust for his loyalty and for his key role in directing the anti-corruption investigation. He has a considerable edge over his competitors,” writes Hiep. essay Tuesday.
Human Rights Watch last week put Lam at the top of the police force and said it had broadly violated people’s rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, movement, and religion. World Report 2023Lam also sparked controversy over his lifestyle in 2021 after a video of him eating a gold-coated steak at a London restaurant went viral on social media.
“This makes Mr Tron, his core Leninist supporter and the Ministry of Public Security seem to be in full control of Vietnam’s politics,” said researcher Bill Hayton of the British think tank Chatham House. told RFA Vietnamese.
“I see this as the ‘Xiification’ of Vietnam. His CPV under Mr. Chong appears to have adopted many of Xi Jinping’s Chinese Communist Party ideas and tactics. They advocate a monopoly on politics by closing the room for various ideas.
“If the past is a guide to the future, then in Vietnam generally, greater control leads to greater discontent,” Hayton added.
Updated with background and analyst comments.
Translated by Anna Vu. Edited by Paul Eckert.