The ruling Communist Party of Vietnam Chief Nguyen Phu Trong, 76, has been re-elected for a rare third five-year term, state media reported on Sunday, cementing his position as one of the country’s strongest and longest-serving leaders for decades.
Trong, who emerged on top in a power struggle at the last congress in 2016 and has spearheaded a “blazing furnace” crackdown on corruption in the last five years, was granted an exception to party rules which say people over the age of 65 should retire.
“Comrade Nguyen Phu Trong was elected to be the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam, term XIII,” the official Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported.
Trong’s re-election as party general secretary came at a five-yearly party congress in Hanoi, where 1,600 party delegates from across Vietnam are concluding eight days of meetings, mostly behind closed doors, to pick a new leadership team, aiming to bolster Vietnam’s ongoing economic success-and the legitimacy of the party’s rule.
Vietnam has no paramount ruler and is officially led by four “pillars”: the chief of its Communist Party, the most powerful post; a president; a prime minister; and the National Assembly chair.
While ascent to the highest levels of Vietnamese politics is governed by party regulations, in reality, the highly secretive process revolves around building consensus and vying for control of the decision-making Politburo.
That means exceptions to rulers can be granted especially if consensus on the top candidates cannot be reached.
Since taking office in 2011, Trong has built up a power base that saw him emerge on top in a showdown with former Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung at the last congress in 2016.
His crackdown on corruption, described by government critics as politically motivated, has seen dozens of high-level officials, including one Politburo member, sentenced to lengthy jail terms.