A small crowd, which included soldiers and civil servants, turned out Wednesday (August 16) for the first campaign rally for presidential candidates in the history of Viet Nam.
A small crowd, which included soldiers and civil servants, turned out Wednesday (August 16) for the first campaign rally for presidential candidates in the history of Viet Nam. The rally was held at Ben Hoa 18 miles northeast of Saigon, following two weeks of haggling over campaign arrangements.
Ben Hoa has 60,000 registered voters, and the small turnout for the rally was discouraging to the candidates. The crowd gradually thinned out as the rally proceeded. A sudden rainstorm near the end left the candidates virtually talking to themselves.
The speeches had a common element -- criticism of the present military government. Such criticism is in itself a kind of progress toward democracy. A few months ago such public criticism would not have been permitted.
But the specific criticisms of the individual candidates differed widely. Truong Dinh Dzu, an attorney, wants a cease fire and a pause in the bombing of North Viet Nam. Doctor Pham Huy Co, at the opposite end of the political spectrum, wants to invade North Viet Nam. Former Prime Minister Phan Khac Suu is highly critical of the United States aid program, and wants to see more aid money used to make Viet Nam self-sufficient. Tran Van Huong, also a former Prime Minister, who is thought to have the best chance of any civilian candidate, stressed that military power alone can never end the war, and that the people will rally to the government's side only when corruption is eliminated and stability restored.
The military candidates, Generals Thieu and Ky, did not take part in the rally. They are considered to be virtually assured of election. Eleven more rallies like this one are scheduled before the election.