Vietnam swears in new prime minister and state president; unknown Pham Minh Chinh surprise pick for PM Post

This picture taken and released by the Vietnam News Agency (Asia News Network) on Monday April 5, 2021 shows Vietnam's newly elected Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh presenting a flower bouquet to President Nguyen Xuan Phuc (left) during the National Assembly's spring session in Hanoi.

HANOI, April 4 (dpa): Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party on Monday swore in former prime minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc as president, while Pham Minh Chinh, the chair of the party’s Central Organisation Committee, was elected as Vietnam’s next prime minister.

Party members voted in both Chinh and Phuc at the tail end of a 12-day National Assembly session that’s seen the party elect 25 key leadership roles, including a new president, prime minister and head of the National Assembly.

Chinh, 62, who's headed the Party’s powerful Central Organisation Committee since 2016, was voted in as the nation’s new prime minister on Monday. He is relatively an unknown in the international scene.

Phuc, a member of the all-powerful Vietnamese Politburo, served as prime minister of Vietnam from 2016 and deputy prime minister from 2011.

As prime minister, he played a key role in ratifying major trade deals such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), and chaired the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) last year.

In 2018, General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong also took up the role of president following the death of Tran Dai Quang. Phuc’s election marks the separation of Trong’s dual role and a return to the nation’s traditional ‘four-pillar’ leadership of general secretary, prime minister, president and National Assembly head.

On March 31, Vietnam elected Hanoi's Communist Party chief Vuong Dinh Hue as the new leader of its National Assembly - the nation’s parliament and principal legislative body.

The National Assembly sessions have also been dogged by allegations of harassment after two independent candidates and one medical doctor were arrested for spreading information deemed as ‘anti-state,' which carries potential jail terms of between five and 20 years.

A report released by Amnesty International on April 1 called on Vietnamese authorities to "end their crackdown on independent election candidates and critical voices."

Despite changes to three of Vietnam's key leadership positions, the Communist Party is expected to maintain its trajectory of opening up further to foreign trade and balancing relations with China and the US. - dpa
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