Nguyen Xuan Phuc, 61, was elected Vietnam's Prime Minister on Thursday (Apr 7). He will lead the emerging economy as it comes under increasing pressure to reform a scandal hit state-owned sector and banking system.
Phuc, former Deputy Prime Minister, was sworn in after 446 of 490 legislators voted to approve his nomination.
Taking his oath, he swore loyalty to the country, its people and the Constitution of Vietnam.
"As the head of state’s highest organ, the executive organ of the National Assembly, the Government members and I will strive to build a strong and united Government,” the newly elected Prime Minister said in his acceptance speech.
Mr Phuc also vowed to enhance the effectiveness of anti-corruption and anti-waste, and firmly safeguard the sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity.
The vote by Vietnam’s lawmaking National Assembly, however, was only a formality. The former Deputy Prime Minister was put forward for the top post at the Communist Party’s once-every-five-years National Congress earlier in January.
His election followed the formal stepping down of former premier Nguyen Tan Dung the day before.
A native of Quang Nam province in central Vietnam, Phuc was elected to the Communist Party’s elite politburo in 2011, the same year he was appointed Deputy Prime Minister.
On Thursday, he took over from Dung, who stepped down on Wednesday after serving the maximum of two five-year terms as Prime Minister.
Phuc is expected to face enormous challenges in restructuring the state-owned sector and banking system, improving the country’s fiscal position, and lifting Vietnam’s over-reliance on foreign investment.
Such changes require a measure of political reform and more than a stroke of luck, according to Dr Le Hong Hiep, a visiting fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.
Vietnam has set its growth target at 6.7 per cent for 2016, although prolonged drought threatening agricultural output could drag down growth for the year.
The government is also expected to meet the commitments of a slew of free trade deals Vietnam has signed or is negotiating, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
"It is undoubtedly a very hard job because the socio-economic situation in Vietnam is, nowadays, very challenging,” said a senior economist, Dr Le Dang Doanh.
“I think all people are expecting from him strong determination and strong step of reform."
Phuc's predecessor is no longer part of the Communist Party's top brass but still known for pushing Vietnam’s integration into the global economy and for taking a strong stand against China in the two countries’ territorial spat in the South China Sea.
His legacy has earned him praise at home but also criticisms from political opponents in the run-up to the January Party Congress, experts said.
Phuc is likely to follow Dung’s foreign policy rhetoric, but the new Prime Minister may be more careful if he wishes to speak up against China, according to Hiep.
The new Prime Minister becomes part of a new triumvirate with party chief Nguyen Phu Trong and President Tran Dai Quang, who was endorsed last week. Parliament will vote on a new cabinet on Saturday.