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Tuesday, 25 October 2016 17:37
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A National Assembly committed to building up a permanent democracy

(LLCT) - On January 6, 1946, the Vietnamese people casted ballots to elect the first National Assembly of Vietnam. This historic event marked the start of the Vietnamese people’s advancement towards national independence and socialism. 

1. A mark of far-sighted vision

On September 2nd 1945, at Ba Dinh Square, President Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence on behalf of the provisional government that gave birth to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the first people’s democracy in Southeast Asia.

On September 3, 1945, the first meeting of the provisional Government raised a number of issues and especially focused on fighting three main enemies: hunger, illiteracy, and foreign invasion. Ho Chi Minh recommended organizing a general national election under the principles of transparent, democratic, and direct suffrage by using a blind ballot mechanism. All Vietnamese people at the age of 18 and over and regardless of gender, political party, religion, wealth, etc. were given the right and duty to elect representatives for the first National Assembly of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. As Vietnam had just removed the shackles of the colonial - feudal yoke, this was a very progressive movement in comparison with European and American countries’, where women only received the right to vote until early 1970.

Formally establishing a new state that legally and practically manifested the people’s mastership in term of politics. It also demonstrated the spirit of building the State “of the people, by the people and for the people”.

The reasons for the General Election was carried out:

First, it was a necessary and essential task for the obvious succession of the Tan Trao National People’s Congress.

With a far-sighted vision, Ho Chi Minh actively made careful preparations for the establishment of a new polity during the Campaign for August Revolution and the General Uprising. This social revolution aimed to tear down the old regime (the feudal-colonial state) in order to found a new state (the Democratic Republic of Vietnam) - according to the Resolution of the Plenum of the Indochinese Communist Party’s Central Committee made in Pac Bo (Cao Bang Province) in May of 1941, which stemmed from Ho Chi Minh’s study of many countries around the world, especially on the French Revolution, American Revolution, and Russian October Revolution in 1917. It became clear that Vietnamese national liberation could be complete by throwing out the old state system. During the August Revolution in Vietnam, the primary adversaries were the occupation by Japanese troops and the rule of the feudal government.

The preparation for a new system of government was essential during August of 1945 when the revolutionary situation and opportunity for change occurred. Ho Chi Minh called for the National People’s Congress to be held in Tan Trao (Son Duong District, Tuyen Quang Province) on the 16th and 17th of August 1945 in order to approve the policies ofthe League for the Independence of Vietnam (Viet Minh) and prepare for the uprising, appointing the “Liberation Committee” as the provisional Government.

The Tan Trao National People’s Congress played as the role of precursorto the Vietnamese National Congress, which symbolized the will and strength of the people and demonstrated the real democracy, the foundation for successive activities in building a formal state.

Second, the General Election had legal and practical value in formally establishing the people’s supreme power in the system of a state, demonstrating the nature of a new political regime.

A new Vietnamese State emerged from the August Revolution victory in 1945. It was different from the colonial - feudal state by nature; rather than an oppressive governmental system, the state advocated for people’s mastership in developing the country on the way to national independence and socialism. This state was of “the majority” and served the people instead of “the minority” that politically oppressed, economically exploited, and culturally enslaved the people.

It is theorized by researchers of political power that a society with unreasonable divisions of powers will be disordered. Although the power in Vietnam was not divided into three branches: legislative, executive, and judiciary (separation of powers or trias politica), the most important characteristic of the new State was the supreme power is belong to the people. This is the measurement of a society’s true progress. The general election on January 6th, 1946 met all the requirements of a democratic and progressive election, including the steps of nomination, candidate choosing consultations, voting members, voting method, vote counting, and result announcement, which suited the specific conditions of Vietnam and complied with the principles of the most advanced nations in the world. When Ho Chi Minh nominated himself in Hanoi, many people suggested that he become a National Assembly representative without election. However, he refused and considered himself as a candidate like any others.

Such a democratically elected National Assembly was the legal and practical demonstration of the people’s supreme power, actualizing the far-sighted vision of the Party and the Party’s leader, Ho Chi Minh.

Third, the General Election was a necessary task to ensure the legitimacy and stable position of the country according to the standard values of international law, primarily considering the relationship with the Allies.

According to the Potsdam Agreement, the Allies decided to send the Indochina the Chiang Kai-shek forces from the 16th parallel north and the British forces from the 16th parallel south to disable the Japanese army.

Vietnam supported the Allies in the fight against fascism. The victory of the August Revolution in 1945 is the clearest demonstration of Vietnam’s effective contribution to the human kind’s general struggle to destroy fascism. The Chiang Kai-shek army, which came to Vietnam under the pretense of international assignment, were backed by reactionary Vietnamese in exile (Viet Quoc - Vietnamese Kuomintang and Viet Cach - League for the Vietnamese Revolution), who returned to the country with the motto: destroy People’s Liberation Armed Forces of South Vietnam (Viet Cong) - and arrest Ho Chi Minh. Behind the British troops at the 16th parallel going south were the French aiming to reoccupy Vietnam.

Faced with this situation, the provision government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam did not have a steady legal foundation from which to take action. The revolution’s value was most firmly guaranteed when supported by a legal international basis. In this case, the legal basis was a National Assembly election of universal suffrage using directness and the blind ballot. As a result, the state system, including the legislature, the executive and the judiciary as well as the government and ministries were entitled with firm legal power concerning national and foreign affairs. This was clearly demonstrated when the Chiang Kai-shek troops sided with reactionary forces to cause difficulties for the Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, requesting for Ho Chi Minh’s resignation. With full legal basis, Ho Chi Minh declared that the National Assembly, which represented the people, appointed the position of state president. Thus, only the majority of people had the right to remove Ho Chi Minh from his post.

This legality was more firmly ensured when the National Assembly passed the first Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. It was the first democratic constitution of Vietnam and Southeast Asia. Therefore, the National Assembly and the new Government of Vietnam had full legitimacy, a state based on the power and force of the people, by the people, and for the people; a constituent, legitimate and internationally standardized state.

2. Continuation of the democratic tradition

The Vietnam National Assembly, under the leadership of the Communist Party, has experienced a number of challenges since the milestone of the General election on January 6th, 1945. The sacrifices made during the resistance war and national construction have led to the people’s national democratic revolution, the victories in the war of national defence at the Southernwest and Northern borders, and the last 30 years of renewal.

A continuing democracy has been nurtured by the National Assembly’s activities over 13 tenures and features the following major characteristics:

First, the establishment of Constitutions, the basic laws of the country, and a series of other laws to ensure the operation of a law-ruled state.

The State of Vietnam is a socialist law-ruled State, which are of the people, by the people, and for the people under the leadership of the Communist Party. Above all constitutional values in Vietnam, the most fundamental, overarching, and invariable is the recognition and guarantee of people’s supreme right to political participation and voice. Throughout periods of renovations, this remains an immutable and unwavering principle. The first National Assembly, the result of the first General election, was the birthplace and landmark for this principle.

Second, throughout the National Assembly’s operations, democracy has been increasingly more evident and progressive.

The National Assembly has emphasized the necessity of discussion and approval for plans and policies concerning national construction and protection. Question-and-answer sessions at the National Assembly are broadcast live and supervision activities have practically proven that the supreme power belongs to the people. The National Assembly’s existence throughout 13 terms has been marked by extraordinary situations, especially during wartime and the country’s socio-economic crisis, but has always maintained the people’s role in government. The model of the first National Assembly in the “more dead than alive” context has left successive Assemblies with valuable historical experience. In fact, question-and-answer activities have taken place since the first National Congress. 

Currently, the State is facing issues in renewing the election process and the operations of the National Assembly during this time of global integration and a socialist-oriented market economy. Issues regarding renewal include protecting people’s right to political participation, maintaining the mechanisms of the State that guarantee the real power to the people, and supervising the promises of Government members so that they can be recognized more effectively.

70 years of the Vietnam National Assembly has exhibited consistency since the first Assembly in 1946, especially concerning the guarantee of democracy and people’s power. That spirit will absolutely continue at the 14th Assembly and its successors.

Third, a more enhanced recognition of human rights and citizenships.

Ho Chi Minh clearly mentioned human rights in the Declaration of Independence on September 2nd, 1945. These rights were “Creator rights” (rights created by the God), universal values promulgated in the Declaration of Independence in the United States and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen in the French Revolution. Among these rights, Ho Chi Minh emphasized the right to be independent and free of a nation. No citizens were free if their country was not independent. The highest human rights, he said, are the right to life, the right to be free, and the right to pursue happiness. Having studied international revolutions extensively, Ho Chi Minh was well aware of the immortal value in these rights and, together with the Party and people, he strived to realize them for the Vietnamese people. Independence, he said, had no meaning if the people were still hungry and cold.

Vietnam has avoided fierce wars in the current era. The issues of human rights and justice were central to Vietnam’s struggles against its invaders, and now socialist goals have renewed those causes with a guarantee of basic human rights. As Ho Chi Minh stated in his Testament, it is neccesary to fight against the old and damaged things, to create the new and good ones. In this important struggle, the National Assembly has become a focal point, a force for victory. It both ensures human rights and citizen rights, which are reflected in the 2013 Constitution.

The first General Assembly set a solid foundation for the victories of human rights and citizen rights. The immortal spirit of January 6th, 1946 will certainly be passed on to May 22nd of 2016, the day in which the General election votes for the 14th National Assembly.


Prof., Dr. Mach Quang Thang

Institute of Party History

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics


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