[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 June 2006, 15:16 GMT 16:16 UK
Changing times for Vietnam politics
By Bill Hayton
BBC News, Vietnam

Vietnam's National Assembly has approved an important leadership change, voting 92% in favour of new Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and 94% in favour of new President Nguyen Minh Triet.

Nguyen Tan Dung
New PM Dung is considered an effective political operator

The two men's paths to power were assured at the Communist Party Congress, held at the end of April, when they came third anf fourth in elections to the ruling Politburo.

They were beaten only by the most powerful man in the country - the Secretary General of the Communist Party, Nong Duc Manh - and the Public Security Minister Le Hong Anh.

Their success reflects a genuine popularity among the party's activists.

Mr Triet [pronounced chee-yet] has a reputation as a strong campaigner against corruption.

While head of the Communist Party in the country's business capital Ho Chi Minh City, he led a campaign against the gangster known as Nam Cam which also brought down many local politicians and officials.

He is also a supporter of greater economic liberalisation.

Vietnam's economy is growing at more than 7% per year, but some analysts argue it could grow much faster if more state industries were privatised and restrictive rules and regulations were removed.

In contrast to his predecessor, Mr Triet is expected to take a more active role in politics, using the prestige of his position to win support for more business-friendly policies.

Newly elected Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet speaks to reporters
Mr Triet has a reputation as a strong anti-corruption campaigner

Mr Dung [pronounced zu-ung] is also seen as an economic reformer.

He has had a very rapid rise to power - 10 years ago he was the youngest person ever elected to the Politburo.

He worked his way up through the internal security apparatus before becoming head of the Central Bank and most recently one of three deputy prime ministers.

Mr Dung is regarded as an effective political operator, something which is vital for a prime minister in Vietnam who will have to bring different factions within the ruling party together if he is to have any success.

Challenges ahead

For the first time since the country was unified after the end of the war 30 years ago, the country's head of state and government are both from the south.

It is a sign of two things. Firstly, that the importance of the south - both as a source of economic growth but also talent and ideas - is increasing more and more. Business people there are pushing for ever greater deregulation.

Nguyen Tan Dung, 56
Groomed for top by outgoing PM Phan Van Khai
Army background suggests politically conservative
Southerner thought to favour more economic reform
Nguyen Minh Triet, 63
Party chief in Ho Chi Minh City, reputed to favour economic openness
Was in charge when underworld figure Nam Cam tried and executed

It also suggests the Party is prepared to appoint those it considers the best people for the job - without the traditional efforts to balance appointments between the north, south and centre.

The two men are relatively young. The people they have replaced were in their late 60s and 70s.

Mr Triet is 63 and Mr Dung is only 56. They were in their 20s during the war against the United States, in their 30s under state socialism and in their 40s when Vietnam's economic reform programme known as Doi Moi began in 1986.

In other words they were educated in very different times to today - politically and economically.

They also experienced the crisis which forced Vietnam to open up to the world and recognise that, even for a communist state, international economic integration is now the only alternative to the isolation suffered by North Korea or the underdevelopment endured by neighbouring Laos.

Politics in Vietnam is driven by consensus, and it is the Communist Party which forms that consensus and the government which implements its policies.

However, the two men will have considerable influence in how those policies are decided.

They will have to use all their political skills to overcome resistance from those in the Party who object to further privatisations and deregulation.

They are under pressure to tackle corruption and reduce inequality - two consequences of economic growth running at over 7% a year.

They will also have to respond to demands for greater accountability and openness in politics and society more widely. It will be a challenge.

Vietnam confirms new leadership
27 Jun 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Vietnam
03 Jan 06 |  Country profiles


Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific