Mathieu O'Neil on Fri, 4 Feb 2005 01:03:06 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote: Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror

U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote :
Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror

by Peter Grose,
Special to the New York Times

(New York Times, 9/4/1967, page 2)    WASHINGTON, Sept. 3 -- United
States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of
turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election despite a Vietcong
terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting.

According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million
registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked
reprisals threatened by the Vietcong.

The size of the popular vote and the inability of the Vietcong to
destroy the election machinery were the two salient facts in a
preliminary assessment of the nation election based on the incomplete
returns reaching here.

Pending more detailed reports, neither the State Department nor the
White House would comment on the balloting or the victory of the
military candidates, Lieut. Gen. Nguyen Van Thieu, who was running for
president, and Premier Nguyen Cao Ky, the candidate for vice

A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in President
Johnson's policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes
in South Vietnam. The election was the culmination of a constitutional
development that began in January, 1966, to which President Johnson
gave his personal commitment when he met Premier Ky and General Thieu,
the chief of state, in Honolulu in February.

The purpose of the voting was to give legitimacy to the Saigon
Government, which has been founded only on coups and power plays since
November, 1963, when President Ngo Dinh Deim was overthrown by a
military junta.

Few members of that junta are still around, most having been ousted or
exiled in subsequent shifts of power.

Significance Not Diminished

The fact that the backing of the electorate has gone to the generals
who have been ruling South Vietnam for the last two years does not, in
the Administration's view, diminish the significance of the
constitutional step that has been taken.

The hope here is that the new government will be able to maneuver with
a confidence and legitimacy long lacking in South Vietnamese politics.
That hope could have been dashed either by a small turnout, indicating
widespread scorn or a lack of interest in constitutional development,
or by the Vietcong's disruption of the balloting.

American officials had hoped for an 80 per cent turnout. That was the
figure in the election in September for the Constituent Assembly.
Seventy-eight per cent of the registered voters went to the polls in
elections for local officials last spring.

Before the results of the presidential election started to come in,
the American officials warned that the turnout might be less than 80
per cent because the polling place would be open for two or three
hours less than in the election a year ago. The turnout of 83 per cent
was a welcome surprise.  The turnout in the 1964 United States
Presidential election was 62 per cent.

Captured documents and interrogations indicated in the last week a
serious concern among Vietcong leaders that a major effort would be
required to render the election meaningless. This effort has not
succeeded, judging from the reports from Saigon.


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