Vietnam president steps down amid anti-graft purge

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Vietnam’s president stepped down and was ousted from the Communist Party’s top bodies in an unparalleled shakeup, as leader Nguyen Phu Trong’s anti-corruption purge casts an ever-widening net.

The sudden departure is a highly unusual move in communist Vietnam, where political changes are normally care-fully orchestrated, with an emphasis on cautious stability. Only one other Communist Party president has ever stepped down, and that was for health reasons.

“The resignation of President Nguyen Xuan Phuc is an unprecedented move in the history of the party,” said Nguyen Khac Giang, research fellow at the Vietnam Centre for Economic and Strategic Studies (VESS).

State media said the Communist Party had ruled he was responsible for wrongdoing by senior ministers under him during his 2016-2021 stint as prime minister, before he became president.

Two deputy prime ministers were sacked this month in an anti-corruption purge that has led to the arrest of dozens of officials, with many of the graft allegations relating to deals done as part of Vietnam’s Covid pandemic response.

Phuc “took political responsibility as leader when several officials, including two deputy prime ministers and three ministers committed violations and shortcomings, causing very serious consequences”, state news agency VNA said, quoting the party central committee’s official statement.—AFP