HANOI — Vietnam's ruling Communist Party named National Assembly Chairman Nong Duc Manh as its new secretary-general Sunday, filling the country's most powerful leadership post.
Sixty-year-old Manh has been speaker of the National Assembly for nine years. Under his leadership, the assembly, which once rubber-stamped decisions behind closed doors, became a forum for televised discussions of policy issues.
Manh was elected to his new position Tuesday in a closed-door meeting of the party's Central Committee. His appointment was officially announced Sunday at the close of the party's national congress.
Manh's predecessor, conservative Le Kha Phieu, 70, fought to remain in power. But he had been heavily criticized over allegations of ineffective leadership and charges he used military intelligence to spy on rival Politburo members.
Manh, an ethnic Tay, is the first party chief from an ethnic minority background and the first with a university degree. He appeared confident at a news conference after his appointment, pledging to continue Vietnam's opening to the world and stamp out corruption. He also tried to obliquely fend off rumors that he is Ho Chi Minh's illegitimate son.
Manh laughed when asked about reports his father was Vietnam's foremost revolutionary hero, who died in 1969.
"I have parents, but unfortunately my parents died when I was very young," he said. "But let me repeat: In Vietnam, all Vietnamese are Uncle Ho's children."