Vietnam removes third top leader in two months, reshuffles cadres

(This May 16 story has been corrected to fix the spelling of Vietnamese leader's name to Truong Thi Mai in paragraph 4)

HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam's fifth-ranking leader has quit her posts, the ruling Communist Party said on Thursday, the third top official to exit in two months, as the ruling party carried out a major reshuffle of its ranks.

The changes at the top of the one-party state follow weeks of political upheaval during which the chairman of parliament and the country's president both quit over unspecified accusations of wrongdoing.

The moves come amid an escalating anti-corruption campaign which has raised questions about political infighting in the investment-reliant country, once seen as a beacon of stability.

Truong Thi Mai, 66, was accused by the party of "violations and shortcomings" committed when she held another leadership position between 2016 and 2021, according to a statement issued on the portal of the party.

Mai was the only woman in the powerful Politburo, Vietnam's elite decision-making body. She was also a permanent member of the Party Central Committee's Secretariat and had been touted as a possible candidate for state president.

With her departure, only two of the top five leaders are still in their jobs, including ageing party chief Nguyen Phu Trong and Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh.

Former President Vo Van Thuong quit in March just over a year after he was appointed to replace another dismissed president in an unprecedented series of high-profile resignations.

Foreign investors, on which the Southeast Asian manufacturing nation relies, have repeatedly voiced concerns about the administrative paralysis caused by the frequent leadership changes and ever-expanding investigations prompted by the "blazing furnace" anti-bribery drive.

During a meeting on Thursday of its central committee, the party elected four new members of the Politburo, which has 18 statutory members. With Mai's resignation it has been left with only 12.

It also said it would propose to the national assembly new candidates for house speaker and president, without naming them.

Parliament is expected to vote on those in a regular session starting on Monday.

The new members of the Politburo include Nguyen Trong Nghia, 62, who heads a 10,000-strong cybersecurity unit and is the party's propaganda chief, and former central bank governor Le Minh Hung, 53.

The party also elected Bui Thi Minh Hoai, 59, as a new member of the Politburo, the only woman in the group. She had succeeded Mai at the head of the mass mobilisation committee, an advisory body on public security, religion and minorities.

The fourth new member of the Politburo is Do Van Chien, 62, who is the president of the Fatherland Front, a body that is involved in social policies.

It is not clear when the party will elect the other two missing members of the Politburo.

(Reporting by Phuong Nguyen, Khanh Vu and Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Martin Petty and Nick Macfie)