Author: Paul Schuler, University of Arizona
Comments on the 13th Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam mainly focused on the selection of Secretary General Nguyen Phu Trong for a third term. But it is the selection of the Vietnamese prime minister, who the Congress ranks will be Pham Minh Chinh, that could have a bigger impact on the future of the Vietnamese political system at the national and local levels.
Nationally, Chinh’s selection has important implications for the future of Vietnam’s collective leadership structure. Although commentators often refer to Vietnam’s collective leadership as the ‘four pillars’, it is perhaps more it is correct to say that two of these pillars – the Secretary General and the Prime Minister – underpin collective leadership. Unlike China, Vietnam was able to balance these positions after the reduction of party committees overshadowing government at the central level in the late 1980s.
The temporary merging of the posts of president and secretary general, and the reestablishment of dormant central party institutions like the Central Economic Committee and the Central Home Affairs Committee in 2012, have raised fears that the Party is trying to erode this balance of power. powers. Chinh and Trong’s twin selections suggest that won’t happen, at least in the short term. The party seems ready to continue its traditional line of strong prime ministers after …
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