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Vietnam’s President Resigns, State Media Says

WorldAsiaVietnam’s President Resigns, State Media Says


President Vo Van Thuong of Vietnam has resigned after violating Communist Party regulations, state media reported on Wednesday, the second president to step down in a little over a year. The reports did not offer any details about his alleged wrongdoing.

While the president is part of a leadership collective — which includes the leader of the Communist Party, the prime minister and the head of Parliament — that governs Vietnam, the post is a ceremonial one. In recent years, power has been largely consolidated in the hands of the party leader, Nguyen Phu Trong.

Still, Mr. Thuong’s resignation is likely to unnerve many officials within a one-party system that prides itself on unity and stability. And it could be a sign of an internal power struggle for the future of Vietnam — Mr. Thuong, 53, was the youngest president in recent history and seen as a potential successor to Mr. Trong, who is 79, in ill health and had recommended him for the job.

“The mere fact that two presidents have resigned within two years is not a positive sign for a country often praised for political stability,” said Nguyen Khac Giang, a visiting fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, a research organization in Singapore. He said Mr. Thuong’s resignation signaled an “intensifying” period of power struggle within the Communist Party ahead of the next leadership transition in 2026.

Vietnam’s Communist Party has governed the country for nearly five decades since reunification. In 2021, Mr. Trong was reappointed as general secretary for an unprecedented third five-year term as party leaders failed to reach consensus on his successor.

Vietnam has often been praised for the delicate balance it has struck between the United States and China. During his short tenure, Mr. Thuong met with many foreign leaders — including President Biden and President Xi Jinping of China — as the world’s major powers courted Vietnam, home to one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies. But the shake-up could spook foreign investors, who have flocked to Vietnam in recent years, believing that the country offered a stable political climate.

On Wednesday, Vietnam’s state news outlets reported that Mr. Thuong had asked to resign after the Central Inspection Committee found that he violated regulations for party members. It did not specify what regulations those were, but the party has often used such language to indicate corruption.

“Thuong’s violations and shortcomings have caused bad public opinion, affecting the reputation of the party, the state and him personally,” according to a report from Dan Tri, a state-run online publication. The report was carried verbatim by other state news outlets.

Mr. Thuong’s resignation comes amid a yearslong anti-corruption campaign that has led to the downfall of many top officials, including his predecessor.

Earlier this month, several top officials in Quang Ngai Province were arrested on bribery charges, fueling rumors that Mr. Thuong could soon be in trouble. That’s because he had served as the party secretary of that south-central region from August 2011 to April 2014.

Speculation about Mr. Thuong’s downfall grew stronger in recent days, after a state visit to Vietnam by the Dutch royal family slated for next week was suddenly postponed.

The sweeping anti-corruption effort was launched by Mr. Trong, the Communist Party chief, in 2016. He said graft could threaten the survival of the Communist Party, and vowed to eradicate “bad roots” and purify the party. Vietnam ranks 83 out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s corruption index, below China and Cuba.

Thousands of party members across all levels of government have been sacked, dismissed from the party or imprisoned, though many have questioned whether some of these targets were political purges within a closed political system.

The campaign expanded to the top tier of party leadership in recent years. Mr. Thuong’s predecessor, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, resigned in January 2023. His departure came after the authorities said that two deputy prime ministers and three ministers “committed violations” in relation to two scandals involving the distribution of Covid testing kits and the repatriation of Vietnamese during the pandemic. In March 2023, Mr. Thuong became president.

Several analysts have said the results of the campaign have been mixed. While red tape and bribery appear to have decreased, there has also been a slowdown in decision-making. Officials have been hesitant to approve business licenses for fear of being embroiled in a possible investigation. Since 2020, about 40,000 public employees have resigned, leaving a weakened bureaucracy.

Mr. Giang said it was likely that Mr. Thuong was forced to step down over accusations of graft.

“Ultimately, the forced resignations of two presidents send a clear message: No one is safe,” he said.



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