Religious Rivalries in South Viet Nam

August 3, 1966

Report Outline
Religious Factors in Viet Nam Election
Buddhism and Catholicism in Viet Nam
Revival of Buddhist-Catholic Tension

Religious Factors in Viet Nam Election

September Election for Constituent Assembly

Religion and what passes for politics in South Viet Nam have become closely intertwined. The scheduled September elections for a South Vietnamese constituent assembly are almost certain to have a strong religious overtone. Under the proportional representation system of voting, insisted upon by the Saigon government, candidates must run as part of a slate instead of as individuals. Most, though not all, lists of candidates were submitted by either the Buddhists or the Roman Catholics, South Viet Nam's two largest religious groups. It now appears that the Buddhists, “though they may not win a majority of seats, will …emerge as the largest single force in the assembly.”

The constituent assembly will have only one function—to draw up a constitution for the civilian government which eventually is to replace the ruling military junta headed by Air Vice Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky. Originally, the assembly was to have power to reconstitute itself as a national legislature after drafting the constitution. But the Ky regime struck down that provision, June 19, and decreed that the assembly would be automatically dissolved after six months.

Ky announced, July 31, that he would not be a candidate for President in the elections which may come as soon as February 1967. The Premier expressed desire to return to his job as chief of South Viet Nam's Air Forces. He said he would prefer to “be in the front lines again instead of the rear lines.”

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