851G.01/3–1249: Telegram

The Ambassador in France ( Caffery ) to the Secretary of State

confidential

1027. Following government’s plea for “national vote” clearly indicating approval principle of unity three ky s, Assembly last night by overwhelming vote of 387 to 193 (Communists and handful rightist factions) approved Cochin-China Territorial Assembly Bill. Bill goes to Council of Republic today and if second reading required Assembly will meet tonight.1

Thursday sessions were devoted to interpellations with Communists and RPF hammering on division within government majority on Bao Dai solution.

Friday morning government requested Assembly interrupt interpellations and give urgent consideration Cochin-China Assembly Bill. Government’s request approved by 294 to 287 vote, high opposition vote reflecting deputies irritation over repeated changes in agenda (Embtel 986, March 102). In ensuing debate government plead for clear endorsement unity principle and vigorously defended its Indochina policy. Outside of Communists’ attack, unexpectedly little opposition developed to Bao Dai solution, Socialists indicating they could consider him as “mediator” between French and spiritual cultural families of Vietnam. Final vote took place at midnight. Motion then introduced from floor (not by government) calling for suspension further interpellations as government’s policy had been thoroughly aired in preceding debates. Queuille3 declined give government endorsement to motion, stating Assembly itself had called for interpellations and, therefore, must itself decide whether they should be continued. If motion carried, however, government would interpret Assembly decision as approval its Indochina policy. Communists and Graullists objected violently. As interpellations must be [Page 12] followed by order of day they were hoping that Socialists would find it politically impossible for them to go along on order of day approving Bao Dai solution. Motion to suspend interpellations finally adopted by 332 to 272 vote.

Furious at being thus out-manoeuvered, Gaullists introduced motion of censure of government. Assembly voted to interrupt pre-election vacation and meet in special session on March 15 to consider motion (which has little chance of being adopted).

Past week’s debates on Indochina demonstrated government’s ability bring Socialists to heel on Bao Dai issue, to maintain its majority, to obtain an overwhelming vote when merits of Indochina case itself involved, and to forestall Communist and Graullist attempts to make pre-election political capital out of Indochina problem.

Sent Department 1027, repeated Saigon 34, London 203.

Caffery
  1. The Council of the Republic adopted an amended version of the bill on March 12, 185 to 97, and the Assembly on second reading then approved by 348 to 202 (telegram 1031, March 13, 2 p. m., from Paris). The bill as enacted was published March 24 in the Journal Officiel (telegram 1221, March 24, 10 p. m., from Paris).
  2. Not printed.
  3. Henri Queuille, President of the French Council of Ministers (Premier).