The Election of vietnamese president Ngo dinh diem, October 1955
In 1954, the Geneva Conference was called to discuss the conflicts in Indochina and the possibility of unifying Vietnam as the French-Indochina War was coming to an end. Earlier during the war, President John F. Kennedy had met Ngo Dinh Diem, and was persuaded that Diem would be a good leader for Vietnam. At the Geneva Conference, the representatives from the United States nominated Diem as the new ruler of South Vietnam, though the French objected. After much debate, it was decided that Diem was the best choice for keeping communism out of South Vietnam. October of 1955, there was an election between the former emperor of Vietnam, Bo Dai, and Ngo Dinh Diem that would decide the country’s president. Colonel Edward Lansdale, a US officer who had a close relationship with Diem, suggested Diem supply red ballots for himself, and green for Bao Dai. Since the color red symbolizes good luck, and green symbolizes bad, the two hoped that more people would be swayed to vote for Diem. However, with a number of Diem’s supporters present at the voting, it didn’t take long things to get more serious than just different colored ballots. Voters were told to discard the green ballots so only the red would be counted, and those who defied Diem’s supporters were beaten and attacked. When the votes had been counted, Diem told his US advisors that he had obtained 98.2 percent of the vote. The US advisors, namely Colonel Lansdale, told Diem that his winning percentage was too outrageous to be believed by the public. Instead, he suggested Diem announce a figure closer to 70 percent. Diem disregarded the suggestion, and the results of the election weakened his credibility. Soon after being appointed, the US learned that it was much harder to influence Diem than they had originally thought. His decisions upset the people of South Vietnam and he ignored any advice from the United States. He was a tyrannical and nepotistic leader, and he banned any political parties that weren’t his own. This made the US very unhappy with Diem, but they still felt obligated to support him. Diem did not tolerate political opposition, and began arresting people who were against him, putting even children into prison camps. After 1956, about 100,000 people were put into Diem’s prison camps. Groups of armed civilians began to form. These groups were not large enough to go after the South Vietnamese Army, but focused on what were known as ‘soft targets’. As a result, 1,200 of Diem’s government officials were murdered in 1959. Furthermore, religious tensions began to break out in the early 1960s that resulted in the deaths of civilians and religious figures. Previous efforts to drive Diem out of office had failed due to US protection, but many events during Diem’s presidency proved that he was unfit to unite the South Vietnamese against communism, and Kennedy agreed to call off the military protection. The CIA provided the South Vietnamese military with $40,000 to carry out a coup in early November of 1963. After telling Diem he would be allowed to leave the country, the generals decided against it and killed him. When Kennedy was told what happened, he was very unsettled, as the assassination of President Diem had not been intended by the US government.