BANGKOK, Thailand -- Vietnam's National Assembly today elected conservative communist veteran Do Muoi as prime minister to lead the country out of its economic crisis, Radio Hanoi said.
'Comrade Do Muoi was elected as chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,' Radio Hanoi said in a Vietnamese-language broadcast today.
The party leadership, which held a week of meetings before the assembly opened today, had given an early hint that Do Muoi, a conservative known for his efforts to clean up the corrupt and ineffective party structure, would succeed Prime Minister Pham Hung, who died March 10 of a heart attack.
A communique from the party plenum said a new man had taken over Muoi's post as secretary of the central committee, which Vietnamese sources correctly interpreted as indicating Muoi was being relieved of party duties to take on the top government post.
Until today, Muoi, 71, was No. 3 in the party after the party leader and the president, and therefore was in line for the premier's post, said Bui Tin, deputy editor of the Communist Party newspaper Nhan Dan.
Muoi is a northerner who spent most of his career in northern Vietnam. Shortly after the end of the Vietnam War, however, Muoi earned the enmity of many southerners by his heavy-handed imposition of socialism.
In contrast, acting Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet, 66, the other candidate for the top post, is popular in his native south for backing economic reforms that have made that region the most dynamic in Vietnam.
Kiet was also seen as being more in tune with the far-reaching reforms being pushed by Party General Secretary Nguyen Van Linh, but analysts in Bangkok said his selection as acting premier may not have gone well with conservatives in the party, spurring the turn to Muoi for the permanent post.
Both Muoi and Kiet have extensive economic experience.