The Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) has not yet determined who will be the General Secretary for the next term because the election of the “special cases over 65 years of age” has not yet been finalized, although the 13th National Congress is about to open on January 25.
The BBC is aware that the Politburo, headed by General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, has at least one meeting, which may take place on January 9, to discuss candidates for the four highest positions of the regime, and the cases over 65 years of age introduced to continue to stay in the Politburo.
According to strict regulations of the Party, personnel participating in the Politburo and the Secretariat are not over 60 years old for the first time while only incumbent members younger than 65 can be re-elected.
Up to now, special attention is paid to two cases above 65: Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, born in 1954, and Standing Secretariat Tran Quoc Vuong, born in 1953.
Mr. Nguyen Xuan Phuc has only been Prime Minister for one term, and the government for the period 2016-2020 is highly regarded in Vietnam’s social and economic governance.
And Mr. Tran Quoc Vuong has been considered by observers for the past two years as one of the few top candidates for the position of General Secretary to succeed incumbent Mr. Nguyen Phu Trong.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc issued Decision 1722 / QD-TTg dated November 3, 2020, on the Party’s list of State secrets.
This regulation says the level of relevant Top Secret: the reports, the notices, the decisions, the conclusions, and the dispatches of the Party Central Committee on the preparation process, the projects, and the personnel plans for the General Secretary, the President, the Prime Minister, the chairperson of the National Assembly, and the Standing Secretariat not to be publicized.
Partly due to this rule, but up to now, information about the four-pillar planning is still “secret.”
Mr. Tran Quoc Vuong, born in 1953, was one of the candidates set for the Four Pillars of the 13th National Congress, according to some observers.
In this context, the BBC tried to ask people who had an interest in Vietnamese politics.
In particular, the BBC also asked a few sources with high-level connections, not just those who speak from a personal perspective but have no source within the Party.
Summarizing sources, the BBC learned that the Politburo had a meeting in the last week of 2020.
Here, the top leaders discussed how many “special cases” options were introduced to stay.
It seems that the majority, with a close proportion, in the Politburo at this meeting supported the option of only one person over 65 to stay in the 13th term.
But the option of 2 people over 65 to remain has not been rejected because there is still some support from the Politburo.
So the next meeting of the Politburo, possibly on Jan 9, will continue to discuss and try to close before the 15th Central Conference takes place.
The CPV has previously publicly stated that at the 15th Plenum in January, the Politburo will “report special cases to the Central Committee to decide to introduce to the 13th Party National Congress.”
Only when the Politburo determines how many people over 65 are referred to stay, can they lock in referrals for key positions including Secretary-General, President, Prime Minister, Chairman of the National Assembly.
Speaking to the Vietnamese press, Asso. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Viet Thong, Secretary-General and Standing member of the Central Theoretical Council gave more details:
“For special cases, not only the Politburo will have a decisive role but it has to submit its decision to the Central Committee, and the Central Committee must submit its final decision to the Congress to see if it will agree with the list of recommendation for election.”
“The spirit of this course too, the special cases that the Politburo must consider comprehensively, is it really special?”
In this spirit, no matter how many people the Politburo introduces over 65, that plan still depends on the votes of the Party Central Committee, before being presented to the 13th National Congress.
The preparation of the 12th leadership for the strategic level staff in the 13th term is considered stricter than the previous term.
After being the only “special case” in the Politburo re-elected in 2016, Mr. Nguyen Phu Trong emphasized that it is necessary to renew title standards and staff evaluation criteria.
In early 2020, he issued Regulation 214/2020, replacing Regulation 90/2017, which sets the standards for titles.
For example, Regulation 214 requires leaders to “neither profit nor allow relatives or acquaintances to take advantage of their positions and powers for self-seeking.”
For the first time, the Politburo established a Steering Committee to develop the planning of strategic-level cadres for a term of 2021 – 2026 led by the General Secretary and President Nguyen Phu Trong.
The number of strategic level staff included in the planning for the period from 2021 is just over 220 people, a decrease of nearly 300 people compared to the previous planning.
Mr. Nguyen Phu Trong also asked to focus on human resource planning for the 13th Congress, it is impossible to both plan personnel for the 12th term and to plant personnel for the next term like the previous term.
The preparation of personnel has long been carried out according to a 3-step process that is submitted to the Standing Committee twice, once to the Central Committee
But until the period after 2016, the Politburo set up a 5-step process: twice to submit to the Standing Committee, twice to submit to the Central Committee, and once to consult key officials.
It is expected that the 13th National Congress will elect about 200 members of the new Central Committee, of which 180 official members, 20 alternate members (the number is equal to the 12th term).
The number of members of the new Politburo is expected to remain like in the 12th term, from 17 to 19 people, and the Secretariat- from 12 to 13 people.