Vietnam’s President Nguyen Xuan Phuc resigns amid Communist Party crackdown on corruption

Vietnam’s President Nguyen Xuan Phuc has resigned after the ruling Communist Party accused him of “violations and crimes” by officials under his control, the government said on Tuesday, in a major escalation of the campaign against the courts of the country.

Phuc, a former prime minister widely recognized for accelerating pro-business reforms, has served as the largely ceremonial president since 2021 and is the highest-ranking official targeted in the party’s sweeping crackdown on corruption .

Vietnam has no supreme ruler and is officially led by four “pillars”: the Party Secretary, the President, the Prime Minister and the House Speaker.

Phuc, 68, was ultimately responsible for crimes committed by many officials, including two deputy prime ministers and three ministers, the government said.

“Conscious of his responsibilities to the party and the people, he submitted a request to resign from his assigned positions, leave his job and retire,” it said in a statement.

Phuc’s office could not immediately be reached for comment, and it was unclear whether a replacement has been chosen.

Vietnam has been rife with speculation that he would be ousted after the sacking in January of two deputy prime ministers who served under him, as the party doubles down on a “burning furnace” anti-corruption campaign led by its powerful longtime boss , Nguyen Phu Trong. . .

Last year, 539 party members were prosecuted or “disciplined” for corruption and “deliberate crimes,” including ministers, senior officials and diplomats, the party said, while police investigated 453 corruption cases, 50 percent more than in 2021.

Trong earlier this month said the party was “more determined” and “more effective and methodical” in its approach, and pledged to deliver results.

Opinions vary on the impact of the fight against graft on investment and politics.

Le Hong Hiep of the Vietnam Studies Program at Singapore’s ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute said the purge could pave the way for cleaner and more capable leaders.

“As long as the leadership changes do not lead to radical political changes, their impact on the economy will also be limited,” Hiep posted on his Facebook account.

However, Ha Hoang Hop, a senior visiting professor at the same institute, said Phuc’s disappearance and uncertainty about the impact of the crackdown could unnerve investors.

“This could lead Vietnam to a time of instability that would worry foreign friends and investors,” he said.

Phuc’s resignation requires approval from the legislature, which sources said on Monday would hold a rare extraordinary meeting this week, adding to expectations that Phuc’s fate had been sealed.

Phuc, who was known in Vietnam for his kind treatment and love for the national soccer team, was once appointed as the future general secretary of the party, the state’s most prestigious job.

As prime minister from 2016 to 2021, he oversaw average annual economic growth of 6 percent for Asia’s growing manufacturing powerhouse and helped push a liberalization drive that included trade deals with the European Union and Pacific powers .

Despite its fall, the government on Tuesday praised its achievements, particularly its response to the pandemic.

“He has made great efforts to lead, direct and administer the prevention and control of the Covid-19 epidemic, achieving important results,” he said.

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