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Vietnam Communist Party general secretary only candidate for president

Vietnam's Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong (C), flanked by Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (L) and Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc (R), pictured at the World Economic Forum in Hanoi on September 12, 2018
Vietnam's Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong (C), flanked by Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (L) and Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc (R), pictured at the World Economic Forum in Hanoi on September 12, 2018 AFP/File
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Hanoi (AFP)

Vietnam Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong was nominated Wednesday as the only candidate for president, effectively ordaining him as the most powerful person in the country.

The party's central committee announced the nomination after President Tran Dai Quang died last month following a long illness.

"The Party Central Committee unanimously agreed on nominating Nguyen Phu Trong to the post of President," the party said on its website.

The country's rubber-stamp National Assembly is expected to approve the nomination of Trong, also a member of the powerful politburo, at their next month-long session which opens on October 22.

Trong will become the first person to hold the top posts of president and party leader simultaneously since Ho Chi Minh, the country's independence leader and Communist Party founder, did so in the 1960s.

His roles will make up half of Vietnam's top political posts -- known as the "four pillars" -- which also include Prime Minister and head of the National Assembly.

The president's post is largely seen as ceremonial, though officially it will make Trong the head of state as well as chief of the Communist Party, in a country where all other political parties are banned.

Trong, 74, is known as a conservative and hardline leader who has led a high-level crackdown on corruption that has seen dozens of former officials, bankers, and executives put behind bars.

He has also been accused of waging a crackdown on dissidents, with at least 40 jailed this year alone. Observers say the lengths of sentences for political prisoners -- which have hit up to 20 years -- have crept up under Trong leadership.

Trong, who has been a member of the communist party since 1967, started his career as an editor of one of the party's official journals when he was just in his 20s.

He has been party general secretary since 2011 and was reelected to the post in 2016.

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