Vietnam taps first woman to top leadership as acting president

The late Vietnamese president Tran Dai Quang. (AFP pic)

HANOI: Vietnam has its first female president with the appointment of Vice President Nguyen Thi Ngoc Thinh after Tran Dai Quang died Friday from a serious illness.

Thinh will be the acting president until the National Assembly elects a new leader, according to a statement on the government website, which cited parliament chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan. Thinh has been vice president since April 2016.

Vietnam will hold a two-day national mourning period from Sept 26 to Sept 27 in honour of President Quang, the government announced on its website Sunday. Quang, who was 61, was one of the country’s top four leaders, along with the general secretary of the Communist Party, prime minister and head of the National Assembly.

A former minister of public security who supported forging closer ties with the US and boosting the nation’s private sector, Quang hosted US President Donald Trump during his first state visit to the communist country last year.

Under Vietnam’s constitution, the vice president becomes acting president if the president dies in office until the National Assembly chooses a permanent replacement. The parliament’s second one-month session of the year opens Oct 22. The government’s economic policies, which include aggressively seeking trade agreements, are expected to continue.

Quang had said the US and Vietnam were “former enemies, turned friends” during a joint press conference with former US President Barack Obama in Hanoi in 2016.

“President Quang was a great friend of the United States,” Trump said in a statement released by the US Embassy in Hanoi. “I am grateful for his personal commitment to deepening the United States-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership.”