Vietnam's National Assembly has confirmed a new prime minister. Nguyen Xuan Phuc vowed to improve the investment environment, fight corruption and protect the communist nation's sovereignty.
Nguyen Xuan Phuc took over as Vietnam's prime minister after being confirmed to the post by lawmakers on Thursday. The only candidate nominated for the job, he won 90 percent of votes in the National Assembly.
"I will do my best to serve the country and people," the 61-year-old said after the vote, according to state-run VTV.
Vietnam is run by the Communist Party and officially led by the trio of party secretary general, president and prime minister. Key policy decisions are made by the country's 19-member politburo.
Former Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, a charismatic reformist seen to have pushed a pro-business agenda, stepped down on Wednesday after losing an internal party election. Critics blamed him for corruption and inefficiency in the state-run sector.
Experts expect more of the same
Phuc, who served as the deputy prime minister since 2011, said Vietnam would maintain its "socialist-orientated" economy. Few expect the new prime minister to institute any major policy changes during his five-year term.
"Phuc certainly will be lower key than the hard-charging Dung," said Murray Hiebert, a Southeast Asia specialist at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Reuters news agency. "We should expect him to operate within the consensus of the ruling politburo."
In a televised speech, Phuc vowed to continue with reforms and fight corruption and promised to "firmly defend the country's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity."
Complicated international ties
Vietnam is currently struggling with public debt, a serious budget deficit, China's territorial claims in the South China Sea and drought and salt intrusion in the country's main rice-growing region of the southern Mekong Delta.
"[Phuc] will have to overcome major challenges to reform the state-owned sector and banking system, improve the country's fiscal position, and strengthen the private sector to make the economy less dependent on foreign investments," Le Hong Hiep, a visiting fellow at Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, told The Associated Press.
Human rights groups and the United States have often criticized Vietnam's vague national security laws for jailing people who peacefully express their views. Hanoi has said only criminals are punished.
The sentencing of seven bloggers and activists in March for "abusing democratic freedoms" and "spreading anti-state propaganda" drew strong opposition from Washington and international rights groups.
sms/msh (AP, dpa, Reuters, AFP)