HANOI – The man behind Vietnam’s successful handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, was formally sworn in as president in Hanoi.
Phuc, 66, was Vietnam’s prime minister for the last five years, a period in which the economy boomed, and his government’s COVID-19 response won plaudits at home and abroad.
Following secret voting on Monday, Phuc scored the maximum votes among the almost 500-member rubber-stamp national assembly.
‘This is his well-deserved award,’ said Nguyen Khac Giang, a Vietnamese politics expert from New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington.
Authoritarian Vietnam is run by the Communist Party and officially led by the party general secretary, president, and prime minister, with key decisions made by the 18-member politburo.
Vietnam is in the midst of its twice-a-decade leadership transition, with 76-year-old Nguyen Phu Trong re-elected in January as party general secretary, the most important of the three roles.
Phuc was the only candidate nominated for president, as Trong – who had held the presidency since 2018 after the sudden death of his predecessor – stepped down.
The National Assembly said earlier this was ‘the first time ever a prime minister was nominated to the position of the president’.
After his swearing in, Phuc told the nation he was ‘lucky and honoured’ to be given the position, which is now only second to Trong in the power escalator.