The September Presidential Election in South Vietnam
01ItIA IHTILLIQEVCE FFICE OF MTIORAL ESTIMATES
SUBJECT: Th* September Pre.identic Election la South Vietnam
1. Tba merger of tho rival presidential candidacies of the two principal allitary leaden. Chief of State Thlau and Premier Ay,ingle alate heeded by Thlau haa significant change* In tbe atnoapbera of South V] polities. The combined nllitary alate Itself la likely to end military factional!an, at least until after the election. Moreover, the withdrawal of Premier Ky's candidacy for the top post haa lessened the prospects that north-south regional rlvalriea will affect tbe coming campaign. At the ssee time, however, tbe joint slateharpened oilltery-clvllien clash during the election period, aad raleea soma Question* about affective coop*ration between tba two group* in th* future.
2. Tba formation of tha joint ticket, which vaa announced In Late June, resulted froa the efforta of the four military corpe cceraandcra and the Joint general staff chief. They Inslatad that the Thieu-Ky rivalry, which waa generating Increasing bitterness between the two aen and between their supporters, had to be resolved in favor of allitary unity. The Thieu-sy cerger underscores the influence of tbe corps ccrxaandersew other senior officers. The actions of these aen represent an effort to ensure their collective voice In any future military government, and sonevhat reflect their belief that General Thieu, who haa tended to actirst among equala.will be responsive.
3. The merger haa obviously bad Important implications for Thieu and Ky personally. Before, General Thieu was generally given little chance of winning the election; with tbe military eatabliahmont officially united behind him, be is now tbe odde-oa favorite. Ky has of course loat none of his current governmental authority, but is quite concerned about hia statue should the Thieu-Ky slate he elected. According to
tba constitution, the vice president is almost entirely dependent upon the president for any authority. There ia apparently bread agreement among the leading generals that Ky viUstrong voice" In the cabinet of the future government, but the details probably will be spelled out only in actual practice. Should tbe Thieu-Ky ticket be elected, it seems likely that rivalry between the two could againource of serious trouble.
*. Ky ia already facing the problem of preserving his political influence among civilian groups. Bis previous auccess in building such political assets probably dependedarge extent upon expectations that he would become president. Ky in effect Bust now approach these groups anew and ask their supporthieu-Ky ticket. Although Ky is obliged to campaign for the military ticket, be has not yet fully committed himself in this direction. Ky's campaign organisation, however,aluable aseat to the military slate, and by using it to helpilitary victory at the polls, Ky can probably enhance his ability to bargain for influence in tbe future government. Despite hla concern about hie future status and hla suspicions of Thieu, Ky probably feels he haa little choice but to work for tbe election of the military slate.
possibility isamvtuseeidue of ibaTblau and Ky supporters (hiring tha past severalImpede the smooth functioning of tbe military's reakdown In militarynow and the election seams unlikely.
addition to the mUitary slate, there aretickets officially entered in tbe presidentialof tbe lesser known candidates may withdraw before
the election. In any case, there are only three civilian* whoa* candidacies are significant. Tree Vanouthsroarormer premier, la widely regarded as tbe strongest of the three. Phao Khac 8uu, another southerner and chairman of tha provisional national assembly, is also respected, but be will be competing for the aaa* southern votes a* Huong. The third notable civilian candidate la the Dal Viet party leader from central Vletnaa, Ha Thuc Ky. He is act seriously regardedotential winner, but he doeaairly solid bloc of votes which he could probably swing to another candidate if he desired.
7. In view of the military's recent move towards unity, the leading civilian contenders may be Influenced to work towards corresponding civilian unity. Although it Is now too late to make changes In tbe actual ccnrpositloa of slates, candidates can still disavo tbelr candidacies and pledge their support to someone else. Representatives of thecivilian contendere reacted to tbe Joint military slate by agreeing not to criticize each other's candidacies, but reportedly vent no further in terms of mutual cooperation. However, should they arrive at the Joint conclusion that they stand no chance of winning as Individual candidates anduture military gcvernmsnt offers them little, if any voice, they might opt for some kind of coalition among themselves. For example, if either Phan Kbac Suu and Ha Ohuc Ky withdrew their candidacies in favor of former premier Tran Tan Huong, he woulderious challenge to the military ticket. If both withdrew In favor of Huong, the election would thenirtual tvo-oan contest, and It would be even more sharply definedlash between civilians and the military.
8. What course tbe civilians do follow dependsreat extent on the climate of their relations vlth the military during the next month. Over the past year, military-civilian frictions have not prevented the formulationonstitution or agreement on electoral laws. However, mutual suspicions caused several near crises during the process. In addition, thereonsiderable difference between agreeing on ground rules and actuallyresident.
9' Political excitement is bound to rise in any event,arge segment of the Vietnamese elite will be deeply immeraed in politics until the election. For example, there are nearly 5CO candidates for thean senate, which will be elected concurrently with th* president. Included in this total are many high ranking civil servants, overilitary officers,ajority of the current provisional assembly. Ordinary, day-to-day lasues which arise inighly charged political atmosphere are bound to be magnified and distorted, and some will certainly tax the political talents and wisdom of the government during the campaign period.
Tbe actual campaigns of tbe various civilian presidential candidates vill most likely be based on general opposition to tbe continuation of tbe military government, and vlll probably devote little attention to other competing eivlllsna. The military vlll be attacked for existing problems, such aa corruption and Inflation. Tbe military will of course try to discourage votes for civilian candidates by stressing tbe fact that tbe armed forces musteading role In present day Vietnam.
The queatten of vbich candidate is likeliest to bringatisfactory end to tbe var, however, could emerge aa the central underlying theme of the campaign.
Tran Van Huong in particular is likely to hammer at the point thatroadly based civilian government can via the peace, implyingote for the militaryote forwar. Huong will probably not offer any radical or unique peace formula, but by championing the cauae of peace and putting the military on the defensive, he could score acme sizable gains aacng the voters.
12. The election could also be influenced by tbe Viet Cong and by toe militant Buddhists of central Vietnam. Last year, Viet Cong propaganda and threats bad little effect co the Constituent Assembly elections. It is not yet clear vhether they will employ the same tacticshich vould probably be no more successful than last yearorew approach this time, possibly Including the use of such clandestine assets as they say have within tha non-Caaauolst framework, frl Qiauag'e Buddhlete have remised relatively Inactive since last year'sovement, but theyormidable force in Central Vietnam. If Quang doaa take an active role, however, he will undoubtedly oppose the allitary ticket.
13- Aa things now stand, toe allitary slate baa to be tbe favorite la the coming election because of its large and relatively united organisation, tha finances available to it, aad its control of the government- However, it ia not unbeatable, and the civilian candidates will in any eventey role in the elect ion process. Even if the civilians do not unite, there la Just enough uncertainty about the
strength of military unity aad enough uncceautted groups of rotors to mate for son* fluidity.
The chances that the election will he held on scheduls appear fairly good. The generals vould probably consider postponing the election only if they felt tbelr chances at the polls vere so poor that even extralegal preieuras vould not tip th* voting la their favor. It is conceivable thatituation Bight develop, but act likely-
1$. We can be lsss confident about tb* chances for fair elections. If the leading civilians continue to pursue their Individual candldaclss and no crisis develops, th* military slate should be able to via hceestly. However, an attempt by the civilian candidates to unite vould probably cause tbe military to react by exerting questionable pressures. If unfair tactic* by the military began to affect campaigning seriously, the civilian contenders might withdrew in protest, thus rendering the election largely manlnglass. If Illegal tactics van eaployed on election day or imed lately prior to It, the civilians could refuse to acknowledge the results, and instead charge fraud. Evan if tbe civilians do not unite, the generals may tend to underestimate their ova prospects
thus faal ccemelled to exert unnecessaryAdditionally, sea* province chief* and other localofficials nay Independently beccoa overtealoua and ultimately do more dnnege thaa gcod. Further complicating the general Issue is the possibility that the elections nay be videly regarded aa having been unfair even though tbe military leaders make no deliberate efforts ia this direction.
16. slather or not it veraeneral belief that the elections vers rigged would thwart the major purpose of constitutionalhat ofegitimate mandate for the gcveimBent vhlch in turn vould Inprove its prospects for rallying popular participation and iupport. To dispell such susplclcna, the civilian contendersinimum vould have to acknowledge tacitly that the elections were fair, and the constituent assemblyaov actingrovisional legislaturewould have to ratify tbe election results without reflecting such doubt. Even sore effective vould be tha appointment of the candidate who runs second as prime minister since it would oonsldsrably strengthen tbe government's claim to legitimacy. There
axe, however, cany probleaeIncluding tha question of military rivalries after the election hich are standing In tha vay ofevelopnent, and it constitutes little soreossibility at this point.
FOR THE BOARD OF HAnOBAL ESTIMATES:
ABBOT SMITH Acting ChairmanOriginal document.