South Vietnam - Politics

Politics

See also: 1955 South Vietnamese election, 1960 South Vietnamese coup attempt, 1962 South Vietnamese Independence Palace bombing, Buddhist crisis, Huế Vesak shootings, Xa Loi Pagoda raids, 1963 South Vietnamese coup, Arrest and assassination of Ngô Đình Diệm, and 1964 South Vietnamese coup

South Vietnam went through many political changes during its short life. Initially, the nation was a republic with former Emperor Bảo Đại as Head of State. He was unpopular however, largely because monarchical leaders were considered collaborators during French rule and because he had spent his reign absent in France.

In 1955, Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem rigged a referendum, which ended with a 98% vote in favour of deposing Bao Dai. In Saigon, Diem was credited with 133% of the vote and he went on to proclaim himself the President of the newly-formed Republic of Vietnam. Despite successes in politics, economics, and social change in the first 5 years, Diem quickly became a dictatorial leader. With the support of the United States government and the CIA, ARVN officers led by General Duong Van Minh staged a coup and killed him in 1963. The military held a brief interim military government until General Nguyen Khanh deposed Minh in a January 1964 coup. Until late 1965, multiple coups and changes of government occurred, with some civilians being allowed to give a semblance of civil rule overseen by a military junta.

In 1965, the feuding civilian government voluntarily resigned and handed power back to the nation's military, in the hope this would bring stability and unity to the nation. An elected constituent assembly including presentatives of all the branches of the military decided to switch the nation's system of government to a parliamentary system with a strong President. There was a bicameral National Assembly consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives, which came into being in 1967. Military rule initially failed to provide much stability however, as internal conflicts and political inexperience caused various factions of the army to launch coups and counter-coups against one another, making leadership very tumultuous. The situation stabilised in mid-1965 when the Vietnam Air Force chief Nguyen Cao Ky became Prime Minister, with General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu as the figurehead chief of state.

In 1967, South Vietnam held its first elections under the new system. Following the elections, however, it switched back to a presidential system. The military nominated Nguyễn Văn Thiệu as their candidate, and he was elected with a plurality of the popular vote. Thieu quickly consolidated power much to the dismay of those who hoped for an era of more political openness. He was re-elected unopposed in 1971, receiving a suspiciously high 94% of the vote on an 87% turn-out. Thieu ruled until the final days of the war, resigning in April 1975. Duong Van Minh was the nation's last president and unconditionally surrendered to the Communist forces a few days after assuming office.

South Vietnam was formerly a member of ACCT, Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank (IBRD), International Development Association (IDA), International Finance Corporation (IFC), IMF, International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (Intelsat), Interpol, IOC, ITU, League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (LORCS), UNESCO and Universal Postal Union (UPU).

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