HANOI -- As the election for Vietnam's party leadership reaches its most critical stage, the country's social networking services have divulged what they say are the names of prospective party leaders who have received nominations. The new leadership will remain in power for the next five years through 2020.
In Vietnam, more than 40 million people have a social media account, and regulation of the online services is generally not tight compared with China, which controls the Internet rigorously. For this reason, information on social networking sites is considered more reliable than official media, which is entirely controlled by the government. According to information released on a number of these sites, incumbent Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, 72, will stay on as general secretary for another term.
On the Facebook page of Thu Ngoc Dinh, a message was posted at around 7:30 a.m. on Thursday saying that "several reliable sources presented the results of the 14th Party Central Committee as follows: 137 of the 175 central committee members endorsed the idea of Nguyen Phu Trong continuing as party general secretary, while 151 members approved the party's nomination of Public Security Minister Tran Dai Quang as the new president." Thus, the Facebook message mentioned in detail the results of a vote on the party leadership's four top posts.
Because the results of voting by the Party Central Committee, the country's highest decision-making organ comprising 4.5 million party members, are top secret, the mainstream Vietnamese media refrained from citing specific names of politicians in association with the leadership reshuffle, as exemplified by a report from Tuoi Tre, the country's biggest daily newspaper, which said simply that the central committee had discussed the matter carefully. However, more than 10 Facebook users posted messages that showed the same voting results.
The leak threw the personnel selection for the new party leadership into confusion. Initially, speculation circulated that Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung may do double duty as party general secretary and president, the party's second-highest post, on the back of the prime minister's overwhelming influence over the party. If he takes up the two highest party posts concurrently, following the example of China's one-party rule, it will be the first time this has happened in Vietnam's history. In addition, Nguyen Tan Dung hails from the country's southern province of Ca Mau, so he would also be the first general secretary from southern Vietnam.
Nominations for the party's top four positions -- general secretary, president, prime minister and national assembly chairman -- will be officially endorsed at the National Party Congress being held from Jan. 20-28. Decisions at the Party Central Committee are rarely overturned at the National Party Congress. If the information on the social networking sites is true, it is highly likely that the national congress will approve without change the results of the central committee's vote.
However, many critics point out that Nguyen Tan Dung may exert his power to change the nomination and become party secretary and president. But the possibility that the information was leaked on the social media sites intentionally to influence public opinion cannot be ignored.