Ngo Dinh Diem

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Ngo Dinh Diem : biography

03 January 1901 – 02 November 1963

Diệm’s activities garnered substantial publicity and when France decided to make concessions to placate nationalist agitators, they asked him to lobby Bảo Đại to join them. Diệm gave up when Đại made a deal which he felt to be soft, and returned to Huế. In the meantime, the French had started the State of Vietnam and Diệm refused Bảo Đại’s offer to become the Prime Minister. He then published a new manifesto in newspapers proclaiming a third force different to communism and French colonialism, but raised little interest. In 1950, the Việt Minh lost patience and sentenced him to death in absentia, and the French refused to protect him. Ho’s cadres tried to kill him while he was traveling to visit his elder brother Thục, bishop of the Vĩnh Long diocese in the Mekong Delta. Diệm left Vietnam in 1950.

Establishment of the Republic of Vietnam

Diệm’s appointment came after the French had been defeated at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu and were ready to withdraw from Indochina. At the start of 1955, French Indochina was dissolved, leaving Diệm in temporary control of the south.Maclear, pp. 65–68 A referendum was scheduled for 23 October 1955 to determine the future direction of the south. It was contested by Bảo Đại, the Emperor, advocating the restoration of the monarchy, while Diệm ran on a republican platform. The elections were held, with Diệm’s brother and confidant Ngô Đình Nhu, the leader of the family’s Cần Lao Party, which supplied Diệm’s electoral base, organising and supervising the elections. Langguth, p. 99. Campaigning for Bảo Đại was prohibited, and Đại supporters were attacked by Nhu’s workers. Diệm recorded an implausibly high 98.2 percent of the vote–an implausibly high result that could have only been obtained through fraud. The total announced number of votes for a republic exceeded the number of registered voters by over 380,000–further evidence that the referendum was heavily rigged. For example, only 450,000 voters were registered in Saigon, but 605,025 were said to have voted for a republic.Karnow, pp. 223–24Jacobs, p. 95. Three days later, Diệm proclaimed the formation of the Republic of Vietnam, naming himself President. Under the 1954 Geneva Accords, Vietnam was to undergo elections in 1956 to reunify the country. Diệm, noting that South Vietnam was not a party to the convention, canceled these. Criticising the Communists, he justified the electoral cancellation by claiming that the 1956 elections would be "meaningful only on the condition that they are absolutely free."Gettleman, p. 203. With respect to the question of reunification, the non-communist Vietnamese delegation objected strenuously to any division of Vietnam, but lost out when the French accepted the proposal of Viet Minh delegate Pham Van Dong,The Pentagon Papers (1971), Beacon Press, vol. 3, p. 134. who proposed that Vietnam eventually be united by elections under the supervision of "local commissions".The Pentagon Papers (1971), Beacon Press, vol. 3, p. 119. The United States countered with what became known as the "American Plan," with the support of South Vietnam and the United Kingdom.The Pentagon Papers (1971), Beacon Press, vol. 3, p. 140. It provided for unification elections under the supervision of the United Nations, but was rejected by the Soviet delegation and North Vietnamese.The Pentagon Papers (1971), Beacon Press, vol. 3, p. 140.

After coming under pressure from within the country and the United States, Diệm agreed to hold legislative elections in August 1959 for South Vietnam. Newspapers were not allowed to publish names of independent candidates or their policies, and political meetings exceeding five people were prohibited. Candidates were disqualified for petty reasons such as acts of vandalism against campaign posters. In the rural areas, candidates who ran were threatened using charges of conspiracy with the Việt Cộng, which carried the death penalty. Phan Quang Đán, the government’s most prominent critic, was allowed to run. Despite the deployment of 8,000 ARVN plainclothes troops into his district to vote, Đán still won by a ratio of 6–1. The busing of soldiers occurred across the country, and when the new assembly convened, Đán was arrested.Langguth, p. 108Jacobs, pp. 112–15