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Vietnam's ruling Communists hold 11th Congress in Hanoi

The top leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam is set for a major reshuffle at its first Congress in five years (January 12-19). But analysts don't expect much in terms of policy changes.

Even though there will be new faces in the Politburo, policy in Communist Vietnam is unlikely to change much

Even though there will be new faces in the Politburo, policy in Communist Vietnam is unlikely to change much

"As ever, the issue is implementation," says Martin Gainsborough from Britain’s University of Bristol, whose hopes for real change, despite new faces in the Politburo, are limited.

"One of the challenges is that there is always a gap between what the party or the government says it wants to do and what happens in practice," he points out.

The Vietnamese leadership has drafted a new 10-year Socio-Economic Development Strategy for 2011 to 2020, which is supposed to reform the economy and bring greater competitiveness and openness.

Vietnam's emerging middle classes want more say in politics

Vietnam's emerging middle classes want more say in politics

While this could help deal with inflation and drive up share prices, analysts say that foreign interest is likely to remain limited without improved corporate governance and transparency in Vietnam.

Economic and political challenges

Gainsborough explains that the high degree of macroeconomic instability in recent years has been a major challenge for the country and the government needs to "strengthen its macroeconomic management abilities."

He sees another challenge in the political arena coming from the emerging middle classes, which wants greater say in the decisions that affects them.

"People are not prepared, as they get richer and better educated, to accept officials giving them a hard time. And the party and the government need to respond to that and move towards a more open, more transparent, and more participatory political system," Gainsborough says.

Multi-party system is out of the question

Although opening up posts for election, which were previously appointed, could be a possibility for the years ahead, Carlyle Thayer from the Australian Defense Force Academy in Canberra, says that a shift to a multi-party system is out of the question.

"The National Assembly is 90 percent party members, and the attempts to get more independents has not worked very well – there were two 10 years ago and one in the last elections. So it remains to be seen, how many -- and it will be very few -- are elected this year," he says.

The National Assembly is also due to be elected this year in May.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung is expected to retain his position despite criticism

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung is expected to retain his position despite criticism

Thayer says the line up for the party leadership is already more or less decided. "Six Politburo members are resigning because of age. That leaves open the positions of party secretary general and state president. Two candidates have emerged because there is a tradition of balancing a southern PM with a northerner.

"It looks like the current chair of the National Assembly, Nguyen Phu Trong, is decided to become the party secretary general, and he is a low-key individual which fits into the mould. And the main challenger to the PM, another southerner, Truong Tan Sang, will be given the state presidency," he predicts.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung faced some pressure last year - he was criticized for mismanagement of the economy and for his role in the near bankruptcy of the shipbuilding firm, Vinashin. However, Thayer says that Dung has successfully fended off all criticism and is likely to retain his position.

Author: Sherpem Sherpa
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein

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