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Vietnam president resigns as Communist Party steps up crackdown on corruption

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  • President victim of high-profile crackdown on corruption
  • Phuc is blamed for the conduct of officials under his command
  • Hundreds of employees affected by the ‘burning furnace’ campaign
  • Phuc’s fall is widely expected

HANOI, Jan 17 (Reuters) – Vietnam President Nguyen Xuan Phuc has resigned after the Communist Party blamed him for “violations and irregularities” by officials under his control, the government said on Tuesday in a major escalation of the country’s anti-corruption policy. campaign.

Phuc, a former prime minister widely credited with speeding up pro-business reforms, has held the largely ceremonial role of president since 2021 and is the highest-ranking official targeted by the party’s wide 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 speaker of the house.

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

“Fully aware of his responsibilities to the party and the people, he submitted a resignation from the positions assigned to him, resigned from his job and retired,” the statement said.

The Phuc office could not immediately be reached for comment and it was unclear whether a replacement had been chosen.

Vietnam is rife with speculation that he would be removed following the January sacking of two deputy prime ministers who served under him, as the party folds into a “fiery furnace” anti-corruption campaign led by its powerful longtime boss. date, Nguyen Phu Trong.

Last year, 539 party members were prosecuted or “disciplined” for corruption and “deliberate mistakes”, including ministers, senior officials and diplomats, according to the party, while police investigated 453 cases of corruption, a 50% increase. compared to 2021.

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

UNCERTAIN IMPACT

Opinions vary on the impact of the anti-corruption campaign 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, more capable leaders to emerge.

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

However, Ha Hoang Hop, a senior visiting researcher at the same institute, said the end of Phuc and uncertainty over the impact of the crackdown could unnerve investors.

“This could send Vietnam into a time of instability that will worry friends and foreign investors,” he said.

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

Phuc, who was known in Vietnam for his friendly approach and love for the national football team, has already been tipped as the party’s future general secretary, the most prestigious post in the state.

As prime minister from 2016 to 2021, he oversaw an average annual economic growth of 6% 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 downfall, the government on Tuesday praised its achievements, particularly its response to the pandemic.

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

Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor and Martin Petty

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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