Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party has re-elected its 76-year-old chief Nguyen Phu Trong for a rare third five-year term as party general secretary, reports the BBC.
His re-election came at the five-yearly party congress in Hanoi, where delegates from across the country meet to vote, mostly behind closed doors.
Sunday’s vote makes him once again Vietnam’s most powerful man – one of the Southeast Asian country’s strongest and longest-serving leaders since founding revolutionary Ho Chi Minh, says Reuters.
The veteran anti-corruption cazar combines decades at the pinnacles of power with the deliberately cultivated image of a frugal wordsmith serving the nation of 98 million people.
There were times during Trong’s second term when the future of his rule seemed uncertain. He disappeared from public view for nearly a month in 2019 with an undisclosed illness.
He has since appeared visibly frail at official meetings and often requires assistance to walk but he has adroitly maintained his command of the party and outmanoeuvred rivals.
His leadership will have to look at the crucial next five years amid the country’s largely successful battle against Covid-19 and a booming economy.
Trong is known for his “blazing furnace” war against corruption launched in 2016, which saw many high-ranking officials sent to jail, but he was also criticised by human rights groups for cracking down on dissent.
Vietnam is one of Asia’s fastest growing economies and while the global pandemic is expected to drag much of the world into a recession, Hanoi will try to retain its growth.
Just late last year, the growth target for 2021 was set at an ambitious 6.5%. In 2020, it had slowed to 2.9%, the lowest level in more than 30 years – but the country is still doing better than most of the rest of the world.