BANGKOK, Thailand — Truong Chinh, a party founder, a key figure in five wars and the man regarded as Vietnam's strictest ideologue, was named Monday as leader of the ruling Communist Party in Vietnam.
The 79-year-old Chinh succeeds Le Duan, who died last week, as the all-powerful party secretary general.
The party's Central Committee met in a special plenum in Hanoi on Monday on the eve of Le Duan's state funeral to unanimously elect Chinh as general secretary, Voice of Vietnam radio said in a broadcast monitored here.
Chinh already headed the State Council, the supreme body of government, and his selection as party chief was seen as an indication that liberalization would not follow Le Duan's death, as some observers had speculated.
Chinh immediately called on Communist officials, the people and the army to rally around the party and prepare for the 6th party congress, which will set new policy goals and restructure the organization's leadership, the broadcast said.
The congress is scheduled for November.
Western diplomats described Chinh as an orthodox Marxist. The diplomats, who insisted on anonymity, said they expect few changes in Vietnam's rigidly ideological, pro-Soviet policies with Chinh at the helm.
'More Rigid' Than Thought
"It shows they are more rigid than we thought. . . . Vietnam is likely to be more conservative in policy, particularly in economic policy," one diplomat said.
Chinh, a hard-line northerner once considered the heir-apparent to the late Ho Chi Minh, was first named party general secretary in 1941 after more than two decades of struggle against French colonial rule.
But he lost the post in 1956 when his ruthless land reform program resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and drove peasants in some parts of the country to the brink of rebellion.
Ho Chi Minh, whom Chinh helped found the party in 1930, had to step in and declare the program an error.
But Chinh, who publicly confessed to "leftist deviationism," had such a strong following in the party that he was able to stay in the ruling Politburo.
He began his comeback in 1960 when he was named head of the National Assembly and became president in 1981.
He ranked second in the Politburo to Le Duan, the shadowy revolutionary who took over from Ho Chi Minh in 1969 and led Vietnam to victory over the United States in 1975.
Chinh was a protagonist of Vietnamese wars against the Japanese, the French, and the Americans, as well as the 1979 border war with China and the occupation of Cambodia, which Hanoi invaded in late 1978.
Some diplomats were surprised at Chinh's appointment, saying they had expected Le Duan's death to clear the way for younger reformists. Before Le Duan's death, most observers in Hanoi had speculated that Chinh would announce his retirement at the 6th congress.
The Voice of Vietnam did not say anything about the duration of Chinh's tenure, and it is possible the congress may choose a new party chief.
Expected to Be Permanent
One diplomat said, however, that it appeared Chinh was selected as a more or less permanent leader rather than to ease any planned transition to the younger generation.