Vietnam Elects Anti-Corruption Crusader as New President

(Bloomberg) -- Vietnam’s National Assembly elected police minister To Lam as the nation’s new president, the legislature said on Wednesday.

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Lam, 66, was minister of public security and deputy head of the Communist Party’s anti-corruption committee before taking on the second most important position in Vietnam’s political hierarchy. He becomes Vietnam’s third president in less than two years after his two immediate predecessors resigned for “violations” that were possibly detected by the ministry that Lam oversaw.

“This is a great honor and responsibility, also an opportunity for me,” Lam said in a speech after taking his oath at the National Assembly. He vowed to “resolutely and persistently fight corruption and wrongdoings,” and sought the “support and cooperation” of the party central committee, the parliament and the government.

The vote comes amid an anti-graft campaign pushed by Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong that has also ensnared two deputy prime ministers, a parliament chairman, scores of other government officials and business executives.

The parliament on Wednesday also voted to strip Lam of his public security position following his election. The government assigned Tran Quoc To, deputy minister of public security, to oversee the ministry until a replacement for Lam is found, it said in a statement.

Despite being largely ceremonial, the presidency is the second most important position in the political hierarchy and is a stepping stone to eventually succeed Trong when his term as party chief ends in 2026.

Lam has emerged as one of the most important officials apart from Trong, after his work to weed out corruption helped lift Vietnam’s ranking in Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index to 83 last year from 113 in 2016. Still, Lam’s election is unlikely to alter the course of economic or foreign policies, which are decided by the Politburo and the central committee.

The country’s benchmark stock index rose as much as 0.5% in Ho Chi Minh City trading Wednesday morning. The dong stayed near its record low of 25,465 to the dollar.

(Updates with parliament decision to strip To Lam of police minister role in fifth paragraph.)

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