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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 April 2006, 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK
Vietnam congress mixes old with new
By Nga Pham
BBC News, Hanoi

Delegates vote to approve the final resolution of the 10th national congress of Vietnam's communist party during the closing ceremony in Hanoi, 25 April 2006.
The congress only takes place every five years
Standing tall on the podium, the newly re-elected General Secretary Nong Duc Manh completed his closing speech with the slogan: "Long live the Communist Party of Vietnam".

This slogan, which has been on display at numerous party and government offices for many decades, sums up the spirit of the 10th National Congress, which closed on Tuesday in Hanoi.

The message is clear: the party is here to rule the country for many years to come.

"The Vietnamese people chose the Communist Party as it is the only party capable to lead the nation from victory to victory," said Pham The Duyet, chairman of the Vietnam Fatherland Front, a party-affiliated mass mobilisation organisation.

"There cannot be any multi-party system, it is a matter of principle," he said in an interview with the BBC.

The congress dedicated much time to discussions of ways to "enhance party leadership and combative strength", after the general secretary admitted that corruption and other wrongdoings among the party's cadres posed a great threat to the "survival of our regime".

A major corruption scandal that broke just days before the opening of the congress has highlighted the urgency of the anti-corruption process, and in his speech Mr Manh promised to enforce the fight.

The congress has agreed on ambitious economic targets, including the maintenance of a high growth rate of 7.5-8.0% a year, and for Vietnam to achieve the status of an industrialised country by 2020.

In order to do so, Mr Manh said, the party is committed to "create a clear transformation and aim for a higher quality" in party building.

New generation

The newly elected Politburo, which serves as the top organ in the party's hierarchy, has been half replaced by younger members.

Current Premier Phan Van Khai, President Tran Duc Luong and the National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Van An all announced they would not seek to continue their positions after age limitation has been reinforced.

Newly re-elected Vietnamese communist party Secretary General Nong Duc Manh, as he delivers the closing speech, with a bust of Ho Chi Minh in the background.
The party is anxious to keep its traditional values
Nguyen Tan Dung, a former police boss who, at 56, is considered very young as a Politburo member, is widely expected to become the new prime minister.

Nguyen Minh Triet, 64, is likely to take over the presidency.

Top ministerial jobs such as ministers of trade, finance and natural resources and environment are also expected to be awarded to a younger set of personnel.

"It is a very positive sign that the party leadership now has many younger people," said 30-year-old Nguyen Xuan Hoa. "But age is not as important as the mindset - we need leaders with young minds."

A businessman who wanted to remain anonymous said he had not seen any breakthrough in the thinking of the party's leaders.

"I think the party is opting for a gradual process, rather than a breakthrough. But I hope they [the leaders] will change. They are under huge pressure to change," he said.

Economic challenges

Analysts say economic and therefore social and political pressure is building up as Vietnam prepares to join the World Trade Organization.

That leads to the re-consideration of many tenets of communist doctrine, including exploitation, private ownership and the capitalist economy.

The party now has to fulfil the hugely challenging task of safeguarding its political leadership while many of its core principles are brought under public scrutiny and debate.

The newly elected 160-strong Central Committee, which comprises the party's elite of central and provincial levels, now has 25 members who are serving officials of the defence and police ministries.

The heavy presence of such personnel compared with other ministries is seen as an indication of the party's desire to maintain political and social stability inside the country.

Retaining overall control over society, while at the same time seeking more vigorous economic growth, may seem an extremely challenging mission.

But according to party documents, that is what the new Vietnamese leadership plans to do.

Now all eyes are set on how they are going to make that plan a reality.

Vietnam re-appoints senior leader
25 Apr 06 |  Asia-Pacific
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18 Apr 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Communist debate grips Vietnam
02 Mar 06 |  Asia-Pacific
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04 Apr 06 |  Asia-Pacific
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13 Feb 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Vietnam
03 Jan 06 |  Country profiles


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