03/20/2024, 17.49
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Vietnamese President Thưởng, promoter of dialogue with Pope Francis, resigns

For days, rumours pointed to a possible resignation, which is now confirmed. Vietnam’s Communist Party welcomed the "resignation" of the 53-year-old leader due to "shortcomings that negatively impacted” public opinion. The country’s National Assembly is set to meet tomorrow in an extraordinary session. Thưởng’s successor could be picked quickly.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Recent rumours have been confirmed: the Communist Party of Vietnam has accepted the "resignation" of President Võ Văn Thưởng over unspecified "shortcomings" that show the extent of the country’s political turmoil.

For international analysts, the situation risk undermining the confidence of foreign investors and the possibility of dialogue with various partners, including the Vatican. Major steps have been taken under the outgoing head of state, including his recent invitation to Pope Francis to visit the country.

In a statement released today, the government accused the president of violating the party's rules, stressing that his "shortcomings had negatively impacted public opinion, affecting the reputation of the party, state and him personally".

The party's Central Committee, one of Vietnam’s top decision-making bodies, approved Thưởng’s resignation not more than a year after his election.

The Vietnamese president plays a largely ceremonial role, but remains one of the top four main political offices in the Southeast Asian country.

In January 2023, his predecessor, Nguyễn Xuân Phúc, went through the same experience, and “voluntarily” resigned because of “violations and wrongdoings" he is said to have committed while serving as prime minister from 2016 to 2021.

The Central Committee’s meeting came a day before an extraordinary session of the National Assembly, when lawmakers are expected to confirm the party's decision and start the process of picking a successor.

The recent turnover in leaders in the one-party state is linked to a vast anti-graft campaign, dubbed “blazing furnace”, aimed at eradicating widespread corruption, but is also seen as a tool to settle internal party scores.

Võ Văn Thưởng, 53 (pictured with Pope Francis), resigned a few days after the Vietnamese police announced the arrest of a former party chief in Quang Ngai province, central Vietnam, in connection with alleged corruption (a decade ago). Thưởng was the local party chief at the time.

The now former president was considered close to Secretary General Nguyễn Phú Trọng, Vietnam's most powerful figure, and the main architect of the anti-corruption campaign.

Last year, Vietnam’s National Assembly took more than a month and a half to appoint a new president. However, this time, the political crisis could be resolved more quickly, and a new president named, if only to reassure foreign investors about the country’s stability and that of its top institutions.

In fact, on Monday, the Ho Chi Minh City stock exchange, the country’s main financial centre, lost nearly 3 per cent in early trading after news reports referred to the president's imminent resignation.

Net sales by foreign investors on Monday and Tuesday amounted to about US$ 80 million, according to Mirae Asset Securities, a brokerage firm.

Thưởng’s “removal could see policy and administrative decisions slow further as officials are more anxious about the arc of the anti-corruption campaign,” said a Vietnam-based advisor to foreign corporations.

Despite this, the consensus is that Hanoi's position on key policies is not likely to change.

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