325. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Laos1

1486. Would appreciate your comments on following analysis of present electoral situation:

Postponement of elections might enable RLG to concentrate on programs which would result in more favorable political climate for its candidates. However since Cabinet “provisional” and charged with carrying out elections, it is questionable whether it would implement [Page 733] such programs with necessary vigor. Therefore on balance it might be preferable to hold elections sooner than later. (Recent reports indicate Cabinet showing considerable inertia. Unless it gets on with the job, it may find time has run out and may perforce postpone elections.)
To bolster RLG’s international standing and undercut Communist claim that Lao people are anti-government, it seems RLG would be shrewdly advised to permit NLHX and other opposition candidates to run freely but keep leaders under arrest. NLHX would then be in difficult position of either a) refusing to run or b) presenting their second team. If a) RLG could make point that NLHX too weak and not representative; if b) victory by government candidates would underline RLG’s popular backing as against that of NLHX.
We agree with your view that manifestly unfair elections would reflect on RLG’s good name and strengthen belief abroad that majority of population discontented and supporting rebels.
Rift among factions resulting from recent events appears preclude for time being merger we had hoped for. However as you know, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] we should seek every opportunity to encourage cooperation patriotic elements.
Since it also doubtful joint LHLCDNI committee could agree on single list, selection of 60 candidates by Nhouy and Kou (your 2004)2 appears offer best solution so far suggested to problem of creating single slate. Would King endorse their choice and would this procedure be acceptable to parties?
Since merger of anti-Communist elements at this time doubtful, maintenance of discipline will become serious problem and temptations to rig elections will become stronger. It therefore appears electoral law becomes of crucial importance and should be so written as to encourage unity anti-Communist candidates, give them maximum support and minimize chances of opposition. Our study of problem leads us believe draft electoral law drawn up by Nhouy but not approved by Assembly last December contains provisions which should permit achievement these objectives. Particular provisions of value: one deputy per electoral district; high bond required of each candidate; two-stage elections.
While registration of voters and issuance registration cards appear good in theory, we skeptical operation this scope can be successfully carried out and in any case believe it preferable NLHX run freely.
Since Lao leadership appears have clear idea problems involved and extent our influence questionable, believe we should avoid becoming too intimately or too conspicuously involved in these elections. We should rather preserve our influence to seek in collaboration other friendly powers to persuade Lao of advisability points made in 2, [Page 734] 3, 5, 6, and 7 above.3 From Parsons’ conversations in Paris, it appears we are in substantial agreement with French.
Separate message being sent by other channel.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/1–2860. Secret. Drafted by Chapman, cleared by SEA and FE, and approved by Parsons. Pouched to CINCPAC for POLAD.
  2. See footnote 3, supra.
  3. Smith reported in telegram 2118 from Vientiane, January 29, that both Somsanith and Nhouy “expressed full concurrence” with these points. (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/1–2860; included in the microfiche supplement)
  4. Not found.