Power Struggle in Vietnam Brings Third President in Less Than 2 Years

A powerful security official was named president of Vietnam on Wednesday, the third person in the job in less than 18 months amid jostling ahead of a generational change in leadership.

In an extraordinary session of Parliament, lawmakers rubber-stamped the appointment of Gen. To Lam, 66, the minister of public security, who had been nominated for president by the Vietnamese Communist Party over the weekend.

On Monday, lawmakers approved the nomination of Tran Thanh Man, 61, as the chairman of the National Assembly. Both posts are part of a four-member collective that runs Vietnam. (The other two are party chief, which is effectively the top job, and the prime minister.)

Consequently, both General Lam and Mr. Man could be in the running to replace Nguyen Phu Trong, who has been the party chief for the past 13 years. Mr. Trong, 80, is serving an unprecedented third five-year term as leader after he was re-elected in 2021. The succession vacuum has led to an intense power struggle in Vietnam — which was once known for its stable and scripted politics — ahead of the next leadership transition in 2026.

General Lam, analysts said, has the edge over Mr. Man in winning the leadership race. He has implemented an anti-corruption effort — championed by Mr. Trong — whose scope and scale have dramatically widened in recent years. Many officials, including the predecessors of General Lam and Mr. Man, have been felled under the guise of this so-called “blazing furnace” campaign.General Lam also presided over a sweeping crackdown on civil society and has been accused of being involved in a high-profile kidnapping of a former Vietnamese provincial official from Berlin in 2017.

On Tuesday, lawmakers voted to relieve General Lam from his position as public security minister. It remains to be seen whether he can ascend to party chief.

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