290. Telegram From the Secretary of State to the Embassy in Vietnam1

2470. 1. Agree important National Assembly be elected and established soon as possible. Continue keep Diem aware our view March 4 elections date late enough (Saigon 28792). We will talk to Chuong along same line.

2. Share your concern over apparent acceleration defections among Diem supporters (Saigon 27633). Hope Diem and his advisors can refrain from unnecessarily provocative measures in their effort reduce opposition to manageable proportions advance assembly elections. Firm control assembly clearly desirable in unsettled period immediate future and we would view with dismay fragmented assembly from which no sustained and effective support for Diem could be obtained. However seems unnecessary create new antagonisms and [Page 622] intensify cleavages beyond point necessary achieve adequate degree governmental stability.

3. First in series Christian Science Monitor articles by Saville Davis, appearing January 12, reported widespread graft and administrative malpractice South Viet-Nam. While not directed personally at Diem, article suggests possibility drift away from favorable U.S. press treatment Diem and his administration. Such possibility is further reason for discouraging unnecessary open limitations on apparently legitimate political activity.

4. You may at your discretion wish pass gist paras 2 and 3 above to Diem, Nhu and others.

5. Request follow-up Embassy’s 28444 determine if possible whether planned election “by absolute majority on single list” presupposes district or country-wide voting system and latest Vietnamese thinking re means by which non-government bloc candidates will obtain listing on ballot.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751G.00/1–1756. Secret. Drafted by Kattenburg and cleared with Hoey and Sebald. Repeated for information to Paris.
  2. In this telegram, January 17, Reinhardt reported that on the previous night Diem had confirmed that the government planned to hold elections for the National Assembly during the first week of March, but had been “rather tentative in this assertion. … I urged him, as I have on previous occasions, that we consider it important that National Assembly be elected and established as soon as possible and particularly in time to meet whatever problems the new year might bring forth.” The telegram concludes as follows:

    “As I was leaving, a person close to the President whispered in my ear his hope that Washington would press Diem not to postpone further the date of elections; he said there was quite a heaving and hauling on this point with Diem in the middle. It was the National Revolutionary Movement particularly which desired to postpone the election date even further in the belief that it could thereby produce a more perfect result. I told my informant that I intended to keep Diem aware of our view that March 4 was late enough.” (ibid.)

  3. This telegram, January 10, reported defections among members of the Revolutionary Committee and among the Cao Dai (especially the late Trinh Minh The’s forces). (Ibid., 751G.00/1–1056)
  4. In this telegram, January 16, the Embassy relayed to the Department the gist of a Saigon newspaper report outlining the planned guidelines and ground rules for the election campaigns for National Assembly deputies. The Embassy reported that it was trying to confirm these details. (Ibid., 751G.00/1–1656)