Vietnam: President resigns over corruption

Shas been simmering for a few days Vietnam the rumor mill. According to numerous speculations, the country’s president was about to be dismissed. The official confirmation that Nguyen Xuan Phuc had submitted his resignation then followed on Tuesday. The Central Committee of the Communist Party blamed him for “violations and mistakes” by members of the government, which “had very serious consequences,” according to reports in the Vietnamese state press. According to a statement by the party’s central committee, he must “take on the political responsibility of the leader”.

This allusion hides scandals about corrupt activities in the wake of the corona pandemic, in which two deputy prime ministers and three ministers are involved. The two deputy heads of government, Pham Binh Minh and Vu Duc Dam, therefore resigned at the beginning of January. Several other officials are also being prosecuted.

Country experts spoke of a process that has been unique for decades. You see the resignations in connection with the anti-corruption campaign of the CP General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, who exercises actual power in Vietnam. Behind the campaign, which the state press likes to compare to a “blazing furnace”, is not just an attempt to tackle the way in which many party and state cadres are illegally enriching themselves. In addition, power struggles between different factions are fought under this pretext. The now eliminated cadres are counted among the group of pro-Western and reform-oriented technocrats. Secretary General Trong, on the other hand, is seen as a Marxist-Leninist hardliner who advocates rapprochement with China. By installing his allies in the leadership, he also determines in a way how the country will develop further.

A successor who ate steak covered in gold leaf?

Vietnam expert Bill Hayton compared the developments to an “internal coup”. Hayton speculated that the Secretary General would probably replace competent members of the government with hardliners from the security apparatus. The current Security Minister, To Lam, is considered a promising candidate for the presidency. If the personal details are confirmed, that would be an ironic twist. In late 2021, a video surfaced showing the minister eating a gold leaf steak during a visit to London. The recordings caused outrage in Vietnam. As netizens learned, such a steak costs around $2,000, more than the minister earns a month.

the corruption is so widespread among Vietnamese officials that the scandals that have led to the resignation of an unprecedented number of leaders came as no surprise. Under Vice Prime Minister Minh, who was responsible for diplomacy in the government, influential Vietnamese are said to have bought seats on repatriation flights from abroad with bribes in the initial phase of the pandemic. Some employees of the diplomatic service have now been arrested. Irregularities in the purchase of corona tests occurred under the second resigned Vice Prime Minister Dam, who was responsible for health policy.

The now 78-year-old party leader Trong also sees it as his political legacy to have taken action against the worst excesses of corruption among cadres. Various ministers, bankers and officials had to answer in court. In 2017, the Vietnamese secret service kidnapped the businessman Trinh Xuan Thanh on the street in Berlin and took him to Vietnam, where he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Trong had also successfully dumped his political rival, former Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. However, at the last party congress he failed to position his preferred candidate as his successor. However, he simply retained the post in what was also a historically unique third term.

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