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Vietnam’s National Assembly confirms To Lam as the new president amid ongoing turmoil at the top levels of government

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NEW DELHI: Vietnam‘s National Assembly elected To Lam, the current police minister, as the country’s new state president on Wednesday. Analysts view this move as a potential “stepping stone” for Lam to later pursue the position of chief of the ruling Communist Party, which is the highest office in the country.
Lam’s follows the recent appointment of Tran Thanh Man as the new chairman of the National Assembly on Monday.These changes may temporarily conclude a two-month period of heightened political turbulence in Vietnam, which saw the departure of three of the country’s top five leaders due to unspecified wrongdoings.
In accordance with standard procedures in the one-party state, lawmakers unanimously voted on a resolution approving Lam’s election after a secret ballot in which he was the sole candidate. His nomination by the Communist Party had taken place the previous week.
As the head of the public security ministry, the 66-year-old Lam has played a crucial role in the extensive anti-corruption campaign known as “blazing furnace.” While the campaign aims to eradicate widespread corruption, critics perceive it as a tool to sideline opponents during political infighting. This, in turn, is impacting the country’s appeal to foreign investors, who have mostly reduced their securities holdings in recent months, coinciding with unfavorable political news. Additionally, the campaign is hindering public administration, with billions of dollars in foreign aid and public funds remaining unspent.
Following his election, Lam assured lawmakers that he would “resolutely and persistently continue the fight against corruption.”
The state president holds a largely ceremonial role but is one of the country’s top four political positions, known as the ‘four pillars.’ The others are the party chief, the prime minister, and the parliament speaker.
Experts anticipate that political infighting will temporarily subside after Lam’s election. However, the crucial battle remains to be fought, as the aging party chief Nguyen Phu Trong’s third five-year term is set to end in 2026, or earlier if he steps down before his mandate expires.
Florian Feyerabend, the representative in Vietnam for Germany’s Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a think tank, noted that with Lam’s elevation to the office of president, it becomes clear that he has more ambitions than retirement. Feyerabend suggested that the position could serve as a “launch pad” for Lam to secure the party chief job.
The parliament is expected to vote later on Wednesday to dismiss Lam from his post as police minister, a move that was not originally on its schedule. It remains unclear who will fill the ministerial position.
Lam’s rise to power has not been without controversy. In 2021, celebrity chef Nusret Gokce, known as “Salt Bae,” uploaded a video of himself feeding Lam a gold-encrusted steak at his London restaurant while Vietnam was under Covid-19 lockdown. The video went viral before the Turkish chef removed it. A noodle vendor who later posted a video imitating “Salt Bae” was sentenced to five years in prison for “anti-state propaganda.”
Furthermore, Lam was the head of the public security ministry in 2017 when Vietnam’s security services allegedly carried out an extraordinary rendition of a Vietnamese business executive from Germany through Slovakia, which strained relations with both countries.
The US state department’s report on human rights in Vietnam in 2023 cautioned about significant violations by security forces and cited “credible reports that members of the security forces committed numerous abuses.”
(With inputs from agencies)

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