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Vietnam President's Term Extended

Vietnam's National Assembly has voted to give President Tran Duc Luong a second five-year term. The legislature is expected to retain the top leaders as it meets to consider cabinet changes as the government copes with a massive corruption scandal.

The outcome of Wednesday's vote was never in doubt. Tran Duc Luong was the only candidate for the presidency and more than 90 percent of National Assembly members voted to confirm him.

Vietnam's highest legislative body is meeting this week to approve a series of cabinet changes decided on last week by the ruling Communist Party's powerful Central Committee. The legislature has already voted to keep Nguyen Van An as it chairman.

Prime Minister Phan Van Khai is also expected to serve a second term. The president, prime minister and Communist Party general-secretary make up the Vietnam's leadership troika.

The assembly will also vote on a broader cabinet reshuffle to be announced on August 5.

Choosing the new government comes at a sensitive time in Vietnam. Dozens of high-ranking officials, including Central Committee members, have recently been linked to a well-known gangster in a bribery scandal.

Carl Thayer is a Vietnam expert at the Australian Defense Academy. He has been closely following the maneuvering in the Communist Party. He says that instead of making drastic changes in the face of the scandal, the party has opted for stability. "There were very strong rumors because of a scandal linking politicians to a mafia figure, that Nguyen Van An will lose his position because he and his wife were implicated in allegedly receiving gifts from this mafia-type figure, and then a whole lot of speculation about the head of the party becoming the president of the country in a massive reshuffle. But that hasn't occurred," he said.

Most of the changes to the government will come in second-tier positions, with at least seven ministers slated for replacement.

On Thursday, the National Assembly is to confirm its own deputy chairwoman, Truong My Hoa, as the new vice president. Popular Trade Minister Vu Khoan is slated to become one of three deputy prime ministers and who will replace him as head of the Trade Ministry remains to be seen. Mr. Khoan was the key negotiator in the landmark trade agreement with the United States.