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Cablegate: Communist Party Seized with Upcoming Plenum; Rumors

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A

Reftel: Hanoi 2063

1. (SBU) Summary: In preparation for next year's Party
Congress, the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) is currently
preparing for its 13th and penultimate Plenum, during which
key personnel decisions will be thrashed out based on
ongoing lower-level party congresses. A number of rumors,
sometimes contradictory, about possible resignations and new
appointments indicate that the political horse-trading has
begun in earnest. As Vietnam's political season moves
forward, the GVN is likely to become increasingly inwardly
focused, and perhaps less willing to take on sensitive or
controversial issues. End Summary.

2. (SBU) According to several well-known journalist
contacts, the Central Committee of the CPV is planning at
least two more plenums to finalize policy and personnel
decisions in advance of next year's 10th Party Congress,
reportedly scheduled for some time in June 2006. The Party
is currently conducting district-level party congresses,
which will be followed by provincial-level congresses in the
run-up to the first of these two plenums, planned for the
end of this year. Party committees in important ministries
will also conduct congresses to nominate candidates for the
new Central Committee.

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13th Plenum

3. (SBU) In late December, the Central Committee will
reportedly convene its 13th Plenum for the current five-year
interval, following the conclusion of provincial-level party
congresses, in order to appoint the membership of the new
Central Committee. Members will be drawn from nominees from
each province, ministry and agency in accordance with
guidelines established by the 12th Plenum held last July
(reftel). In theory, Central Committee members must meet
these guidelines' age, professional and geographic
qualifications. According to official sources, the current
Central Committee has stipulated that all new members must
not be older than 50 years of age to allow them to serve at
least two five-year terms. The new Central Committee is
projected to consist of between 160 and 165 members,
excluding alternates. (Note: The current Committee
consists of 150 "full" members and no alternates. End

4. (SBU) Le Tho Binh, head of the Legal Affairs Journal's
Hanoi office, claimed that the Party hopes to "promote
democracy" by this expansion of the Central Committee --
which in theory is the Party's leading institution when
Party Congresses are not in session -- in anticipation of
major policy debates in the coming years. Alternate
membership, a personnel option that has not been used since
the 6th Party Congress in 1986, may also be considered, and
would give probationary opportunities to a greater number of
key officials so that they are better prepared to serve the
Central Committee while they are still relatively young,
Binh asserted. Sharing the same observation, Nguyen Chi
Dzung, former Editor-in-Chief of the National Assembly-
affiliated Legislative Affairs Journal, added that alternate
membership is also meant to provide replacements for "full"
members who have to step down for any reason.

5. (SBU) According to official sources, the Central
Committee has for the first time ever asked the Vietnam
Fatherland Front (VFF), the Party's umbrella for mass
organizations, to vet current and prospective members of the
new Committee. VFF President and former permanent Politburo
member Pham The Duyet told the press that the VFF is
expected to confirm candidates' "professional efficiency and
trustworthiness," as well as their age and physical health.
The other criteria considered are "the three no's" set by
the Central Committee itself: "no corruption, no red tape
and no wastefulness." Duyet added, however, that there
would be no open discussion within the VFF of nominated
candidates, as "personnel issues are critical and sensitive
in nature." Instead, each member of the VFF's Presidium
will forward his or her respective comments to the VFF
President, who in turn will forward them to the CPV's
Commission for Organization and Personnel, he explained.

Personnel Change Rumors

6. (SBU) Tran Nhung, former chief of international affairs
of Quan Doi Nhan Dan (People's Army) newspaper, Binh and
Dzung shared their common belief with Poloffs that any final
decisions concerning top leadership will not be available
until the 14th Plenum, expected to be the last and most
important meeting before the Party Congress. All final
decisions on the Party's platform, agenda and personnel
decisions will be made at the 14th Plenum. Nevertheless,
they report rumors that, "for the sake of continuity and
stability," Nong Duc Manh will apparently stay on for
another five-year term as Party Secretary, despite the fact
that he is "not considered particularly capable." It is
also thought that Vietnam's other three top leaders --
President Tran Duc Luong, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai and
National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Van An -- will step down.
Phan Dien, a current Politburo member and permanent member
of the Central Committee's Secretariat, is also expected to
step down, and is likely to be replaced by Nguyen Phu Trong,
the current Party Chief in Hanoi, a Politburo member and
Chief of the Central Committee's Theoretical Council. Trong
is thought to be the CPV's strongest ideologue and is seen
as part of the conservative faction within the current
Central Committee. (Note: The Secretariat handles the
Party's day-to-day affairs, which makes its 9 members
powerful within Party circles. End note.)

7. (SBU) The journalists also report rumors that Politburo
members Standing Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dzung and
National Assembly Vice Chairman Truong Quang Duoc will
continue in the new Politburo and will be named Prime
Minister and Chairman of the National Assembly,
respectively. Dzung has been a permanent deputy prime
minister for a number of years, so replacing Khai would be
seen as a "logical development." The same could be said for
Vice Chairman Duoc. Other key positions in the new Central
Committee, as well as the Politburo, will be clearer only
after the Party congresses have been held in key provinces
and cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, as well as in
important ministries such as the Ministries of Public
Security and National Defense. The CPV's current Politburo
reportedly recently met with key Party officials from Hanoi
and Ho Chi Minh City to discuss preparations for their
municipal Party congresses because these congresses will
likely decide other critical leadership positions in the


8. (SBU) Comment: With the district, provincial and
ministry party congresses taking place in anticipation of
the 13th Plenum, political horse-trading season is in full
swing. Individual rumors notwithstanding, we will not
really know who is up and who is down within the CPV until
much later. We also cannot precisely predict when the Party
Congress will be take place, as internal politicking and
concerns about APEC events' timing are significant
variables. However, we can expect that, as the preparatory
political battles become more heated over the next few
months, the GVN will likely become increasingly inwardly
focused, and Government leaders may be less inclined to make
decisions about or take positions on controversial or
sensitive issues. End comment.


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