174. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Robertson) to the Secretary of State1


  • Preliminary Analysis of Lao Election Results

Although firm final results have not yet been announced it may be safely assumed that the Communists (Neo Lao Hak Xat) have won nine seats and that the neutralists (Santiphab) have won four out of the twenty-one seats at issue in the May 4 supplementary elections in Laos. Since there are eight leftists in the National Assembly already, a leftist coalition may be expected to control about one-third of the seats in the new enlarged assembly (21 out of 59 seats).

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We are awaiting an analysis of the election results that is being prepared by the Embassy but from information already received it seems clear that a new political situation has evolved in Laos as a result of these elections. The Crown Prince, Prime Minister Souvanna Phouma and the French representative in Vientiane claim that the unexpectedly strong showing of the Communist candidates does not indicate a choice of Communism by the Lao electorate but simply a protest vote against war and corruption and in favor of peace, neutrality and new faces. This argument which contains some elements of truth cannot, however, obscure the fact that the Neo Lao Hak Xat has emerged as a well organized and disciplined legal political party whose aim is to establish Communist control of Laos, probably by parliamentary means.

The conservative leaders have been badly shaken by the Communist show of strength. Unfortunately their first reaction is simply to blame each other for the mistake they all made in failing to produce a workable united front with a minimum list of conservative candidates. Figures now available indicate that conservatives received three-quarters of the popular vote but will get only one-third of the seats at issue. Partial returns show that in ten provinces where eighty per cent of the electorate voted, conservatives got 680,370 votes but will get only eight seats whereas leftists got only 256,010 votes but will get thirteen seats.

It appears that the Neo Lao Hak Xat intend to try to relieve the conservatives’ anxieties and to lull them into a false sense of security which will make a conservative merger less likely. To this end Communist Prince Souphanouvong is suggesting a perpetuation of the present government with its two Neo Lao Hak Xat members and is volunteering for the unpopular task of participation in the monetary negotiations with the United States. There appears to be a growing acceptance in some conservative circles of the Neo Lao Hak Xat proposal for continuation of the present cabinet. We feel that this formula would cause the conservatives again to lapse into dangerous complacency and thus prevent their unification.

It is possible for the conservatives, given a little organization and discipline and reasonably effective leadership, to form an all conservative government. They have a majority of the enlarged assembly and they possess the psychological advantage of having received a popular majority in the elections.

We are now discussing with the Embassy in Vientiane various possibilities related to a reappraisal of our efforts in Laos.2

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/5–1758. Secret. Drafted by Corcoran and cleared by Kocher and Parsons. A note on the source text indicates that the Secretary saw this memorandum.
  2. In telegram 1960 from Vientiane, May 17, the Embassy concluded that the NLHX was now the strongest political party in Laos and listed the reasons for electoral success. The Embassy warned of a possible peaceful Communist takeover in Laos in the general election of December 1959 and concluded its analysis with the suggestion that either a cabinet crisis, dissolution of the Assembly, and new elections were possibilities, but an immediate military coup was not. (Ibid., 751J.00/5–1758; included in the microfiche supplement)