Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh, 58, is the first woman to hold office as president in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
Thinh was thrust into the acting position on Sunday, two days after President Tran Dai Quang succumbed to a “rare, toxic” virus.
The move makes Thinh the first female head of a communist state since Sabine Bergmann-Pohl of East Germany in 1990.
Born in December 1959, Thinh became a member of the Communist Party at age 20. She holds a bachelor’s degrees in law, history and politics and a master’s degree in party-building.
Thinh was elected as Vietnam’s vice president in April 2016 after winning 91.09% of votes in the National Assembly. Previously, she served as deputy chief of the Party Central Committee’s Office.
She was also the vice permanent president of the Vietnam Women’s Union, secretary of the Vĩnh Long provincial Party Committee, an alternate member of the 10th Party Central Committee, a member of the Party Central Committee in the 11th and 12th tenures and a National Assembly deputy in the 11th and 13th tenures, according to Vietnam News.
Thinh remains acting president until the National Assembly determines a permanent replacement to Quang in late October, Nikkei Asian Review noted.
Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue and Tran Quoc Vuong, executive secretary of the party’s secretariat, are seen as potential successors.
As acting president, Thinh shares power with three other “pillars” in ruling Vietnam, namely the prime minister, the general secretary of the Communist Party and the chair of the National Assembly.
While sitting on the powerful decision-making politburo, the presidency assumes more ceremonial duties. Last year, Quang hosted President Donald Trump in his first visit to the communist state.
Some expect that Thinh’s temporary appointment in Vietnamese society with deeply-rooted gender imbalance will do little to women’s rights.
“I think while Ngoc Thinh’s appointment is symbolically important, its wider significance is limited to some women who are Communist Party members,” activist and dissident Do Nguyen Mai Khoi told VOA News.
“We should however remember that, as an unelected leader who is not accountable to the public, this appointment is not likely to improve conditions for most women in Vietnam.”
The National Assembly convenes on Oct. 22.
Featured Images via Vietnam News Agency