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Thayer Vietnam: Anti-Climatic Showdown at the 6th Party Plenum

Thayer Vietnam: Anti-Climatic Showdown at the 6th Party Plenum

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Published by Carlyle Alan Thayer
An analysis of the outcome of the sixth plenary meeting of the Vietnam Communist Party Central Committee with a focus on why Nguyen Tan Dung was not forced to resign as prime minister due to his mishandling of the economy.
An analysis of the outcome of the sixth plenary meeting of the Vietnam Communist Party Central Committee with a focus on why Nguyen Tan Dung was not forced to resign as prime minister due to his mishandling of the economy.

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Published by: Carlyle Alan Thayer on Oct 26, 2012
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Background Brief:Vietnam: Anti-ClimaticShowdown at the 6th PartyPlenumCarlyle A. ThayerOctober 19, 2012
The outcome of Vietnam’s recent sixth party plenum produced something of an anti
-climax. When the timing of the sixth plenum was brought forward unexpectedly
Vietnam’s political elite were all abuzz with rumours that Prime Minister Nguyen Tan
Dung, a member of the Politburo, would be forced to step down for hismismanagement of the economy and his failure to curb the growth of corruptinterest groups.The sixth plenum met from October 1 to 15. This is the longest period the CentralCommittee has met since the eleventh national party congress in January 2011.Indeed, no party plenum in the five years since the tenth congress in April 2006 hasmet for more than nine days. And, as party Secretary General Nguyen Phu Trongnoted in his opening speech, no recent plenum has had such a heavy work load.
1
 Typically, when the party Central Committee meets, the Vietnamese media publishthe opening and closing speeches by the party Secretary General, the resolution of the plenum and a summary of proceedings. Once the Central Committee begins its
incamera
discussions the media falls silent. This opens the field to rumours andspeculation. After the plenum concludes the Vietnamese media provide summariesthat closely parallel the official party texts.Background
2
 Three important developments form the backdrop to the sixth plenum. First, the
fourth plenum the Vietnam Communist Party’s Central Committee, which met
fromDecember 26-31, 2011, adopted a major resolution on party-building.
3
This led to an
1
The plenum considered reform of state-owned enterprises, land ownership issues, education andtraining, science and technology, and selection of future party and state leaders. These arefundamental long-term development issues.
2
 
Carlyle A. Thayer, “
Vietnam: Showdown for Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung?
,”
Thayer Consultancy Background Brief 
, October 2, 2012. Thayer Consultancy Reports are archived and may be located athttp://www.scribd.com/carlthayer. 
3
 
“Most so van de cap bach ve xay dung Dang hien nay.” Subsequently the Vietnam Communist Party
held a national meeting to address party-building, reform and corruption. See: Carlyle A. Thayer,
“Vietnam’s Hardy Perennial –
Entrenched Corruption
,”
Thayer Consultancy Background?,
March 1,
Thayer Consultancy
ABN # 65 648 097 123
 
2
intense party-led campaign of criticism and self-criticism (see below). The purpose of this campaign was to examine the strong and weak points of party organs andindividuals at all levels and to identify ways to overcome shortcomings anddeficiencies. In the past, criticism campaigns have led party members beingdisciplined, demoted or dismissed from office.Second, party in-fighting became increasingly visible.
4
It appears that a loosecoalition formed around President and Politburo member Truong Tan Sang and partySecretary General Nguyen Phu Trong to oppose
 –
if not bring down
 –
Prime Ministerand Politburo member Nguyen Tan Dung. At the start of the year Dung was replacedas head of the Anti-Corruption Steering Committee which he had set up and headedduring his first term in office. In May, deputy Mrs Dang Thi Hoang Yen, a supporter of Truong Tan Sang, was unceremoniously expelled from the National Assembly.
5
InAug
ust, Nguyen Duc Kien, a private banker with close ties to the prime minister’s
daughter was arrested.
6
A concerted effort was made to expose widespreadcorruption in theVietnam Shipbuilding Industry Corporation(Vinashin), a state-owned enterprise favoured by the prime minister.
7
 
Third, Vietnam’s economic malaise, particularly high inflation and the devaluation of 
the dong (which made funding overseas education more expensive), producedwidespread and growing public expressions of discontent particularly among thesecond tier of the party elite.
8
Their complaints surfaced on the web. But in May, inan unprecedented development, several new blogs appeared,
Dan Lam Bao
and
Quan Lam Bao
in particular, that targeted top leaders. Prime Minister Nguyen TanDung r
eceived the lion’s share of criticism for his handling of the economy,
nepotism, and tolerance of a network of corrupt officials. Public discontent and theblogs put pressure on the party leadership to respond and take action.
2012 and
Carlyle A. Thayer, “Vietnam: Is Reform for Real?,”
Thayer Consultancy Background Brief 
,March 7, 2012.
4
 
Carlyle A. Thayer, “Vietnam: Policy and Personality Differences Emerge,”
Thayer Consultancy Background Brief 
, May 22, 2012.
5
Carlyle A. Tha
yer, “Vietnam: Conflict of Interest –
 
Private Entrepreneurs in the National Assembly?,”
 Thayer Consultancy Background Brief 
,
April 17, 2012 and Carlyle A. Thayer, “Vietnam: The Case of 
Deputy Dang Thi Hoang Yen
,”
Thayer Consultancy Background Brief 
, April 20, 2012.
6
 
Carlyle A. Thayer, “
Vietnam: Why Was Nguyen Duc Kien Arrested?
,”
Thayer Consultancy Background Brief 
, August 23, 2012; Carlyle A. Thayer, “
Vietnam: Nguyen Duc Kien
 –
A Pawn In Power Struggle?
,”
Thayer Consultancy Background Brief 
, August 23, 20
12; Carlyle A. Thayer, “
Vietnam: Nguyen Duc Kienand Regulatory Reform
,”
Thayer Consultancy Background Brief 
, August 23, 2012; Carlyle A. Thayer,
Vietnam: Chairman of Asia Commercial Bank Ly Xuan Hai Arrested
,”
Thayer Consultancy Background Brief 
, August
24, 2012 and Carlyle A. Thayer, “
Vietnam: Fall Out from Arrest of Nguyen Duc Kien
,”
Thayer Consultancy Background Brief 
, August 29, 2012.
7
 
Carlyle A. Thayer, “Vietnam: Compensating Vinashin’s Foreign Investors,”
Thayer Consultancy Background Brief 
, March 26, 2012.
8
 
Carlyle A. Thayer, “Vietnam: Rising Public Discontent,”
Thayer Consultancy Background Brief 
, January13, 2012.
 
3
Criticism and Self-Criticism Campaign
9
 The first phase of the criticism and self-criticism campaign was launched in July andtook place over three weeks. It involved the Politburo and Secretariat as a collectiveand each of their individual members. Four days were spent examining the Politburoand Secretariat, twelve days were spent examining the top leadership, and five days
were spent clarifying some of the issues that were raised. Vietnam’s rumour millreported Nguyen Tan Dung’s examination took two days to complete and that his
dossier ran to more than three hundred pages.On August 13
th
the Politburo convened a national conference of key party cadres todisseminate the result of the high-level criticism campaign as preparation for asimilar criticism campaign at provincial and municipal levels. The Politburo directedthat fifty-six party units and individuals be examined closely. The criticism campaignwould then be conducted at the district and local levels.Sixth PlenumA preliminary report on the criticism campaign drawn up by the Politburo wassubmitted to the sixth plenum for review by the Central Committee. This reportnoted that the Politburo and Secretariat has committed serious errors in theexecution of their duties and unanimously recommended that the CentralCommittee consider appropriate disciplinary action for the Politburo and Secretariat
and a “comrade member of the Politburo [Nguyen Tan Dung].”
The Central Committee spent one-third of its time discussing this report. On Friday,October 12, it appeared that Nguyen T
an Dung’s fate was sealed when rumours
surfaced that 140 of the 175 members of the Central Committee were in favour of his removal. By Sunday, October 14, the rumours had reversed course. Reportedlyonly six members of the Central Committee spoke against Mr Dung, while overseventy per cent of the Central Committee favoured retaining him. It was also
rumoured that one of Mr Dung’s past critics, Politburo member Nguyen Sinh Hung,the chair of the National Assembly Standing Committee, spoke against Mr Dung’s
 dismissal.According to the closing speech at the end of the sixth plenum delivered bySecretary General Trong, the Central Committee gave very careful consideration tothe recommendations of the Politburo and decided not to impose discipline on thePolit
buro and Secretariat and the “comrade member of the Politburo” as requested.
The Politburo and Secretariat were directed to take urgent measures to overcomeshortcomings and deficiencies so that hostile forces could not take advantage of thissituation.Prime Minister and Party ComradeAnalysts who were surprised that Nguyen Tan Dung was not forced to resign asprime minister may have confused the role of a prime minister in a liberaldemocratic system with the role of prime minister in a communist one-party state.
9
 
Carlyle A. Thayer, “Vietnam: Criticism and Self 
-Criticism Campaign Gets Underway
,”
Thayer Consultancy Background Brief 
, August 17, 2012.

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