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Ho Chi Minh’s will in building the Democratic Republic in Vietnam via General Election 1946

(PTOJ) - After the August Revolution victory in 1945, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam came into existence, opening the democracy-building period in Vietnam. During the early time of independence, the country's economy was exhausted and the literacy level was extremely low, however the people's mastership, especially in the political area, was guaranteed. The first General Election was successfully held on January 6, 1946 with the participation of a large number of people. In this regard, a People's Government was formed. The article focuses on clarifying Ho Chi Minh’s will in building the republic democracy and its values today.

Hanoi suburban voters voted for the first National Assembly deputies on January 6, 1946_Photo: DC

Keywords: Ho Chi Minh, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam’s Government, General Election 1946, democracy, socialist democracy.

Even in the ancient time, ideologists and philosophers already agreed that democary could only be created and perfected in certain socio-economic conditions. Aristotle–a philosopher of the ancient Greece - claimed that only in a society with a developed economy could the people having high-standard living conditions easily take part in the politics in a proper manner. According to Marxism - Leninism, superstructure is always determined by infrastructure. Politics is the reflection of economics, that is, the existence and development of democracy is always accompanied by high economic conditions. Economics has impacts on social development. A country can only receive democratic governance when it reaches a certain level of socio-economic development.

After its independence in 1945, Vietnam was a dependent and exhausted economy, which was severely damaged under the rule of the French colonists and Japanese fascists. Economic sectors were stagnated. Many industrial establishments did not come into operation. Goods on the market were scarce. Particularly, the famine in 1945, which claimed 2 millions of lives, was a strong manifestation of this exhaustion. The state budget was empty, leading to the incapability of revenue and expenditure. In such economic difficulty, tax revenue was greatly reduced. The colonial and feudal rule led to a backward cultural heritage. More than 90% of the population was illiterate, and social evils such as gambling and drug addiction were quite popular. Diseases spread everywhere. Not only that, the country faced the sabotage of many hostile forces at home and abroad. Foreign invasion was the most serious problem challenging the young Vietnamese country at that time. In such a circumstance, few people dared to think of a General Election.

1. Ho Chi Minh’s belief and determination is the decisive factor

Studying Vietnamese history after 1945, we can see that it is not the economic development or high awareness of the majority of people that decides the establishment of democracy. Rather, it is the leaders’ trust in the people and the government’s determination in exercising and guaranteeing the people’s right to mastery. The new Government headed by President Ho Chi Minh was determined in creating a political institution regulating and ensuring the people to be the subject of power.

It took only 4 years since the day the Vietnamese country claimed its independence (2 September 1945) till the first General Election. During that time, the provisional Government issued a great number of decrees relating to the General Election. Immediately after the Independence Day, at the first meeting on September 3, 1945, President Ho Chi Minh requested the Government to soon organize a General Election with universal suffrage. He said, “As we were formerly ruled by the absolute monarchy, then the colonial regime which was no less despotic, our country had no constitution and our people could not enjoy democratic freedoms. We must have a democratic constitution. Therefore, I propose the Government to organize as soon as possible a general election according to the universal suffrage regime. All citizens, male and female, aged full 18 years old shall have the right to vote and to stand for the election, regardless of their economic situation, religion, and ethnicity”(1). On September 8, 1945, President Ho Chi Minh signed Decree No. 14-SL on the parliamentary general election. On September 26, 1945, the provisional Government issued Decree No. 39-SL on establishing the committee on drafting the General Election’s rules. On October 17, 1945, Decree No. 51-SL was issued regulating the General Election’s rules. On 2 Decembe, 1945, Decrees No. 71 and No. 72 supplemented Decree No. 51 on the rules for candidacy and addition of candidates in some provinces. This is the Government’s determination in exercising the people’s right to mastery, initially building a State of the people, by the people and for the people. The above decrees created the legal basis and foundation for the first General Election’s success.

The determination to organize the General Election post 1945 also shows the Government’s and President Ho Chi Minh’s absolute trust in the people. At that time, many were worried that with the country’s low literacy, it was hard for the people, who even did not know how to read and to write, to properly choose and vote for capable people to lead and manage the country. At that time, many hostile forces were so longed to overthrow and oppose the revolutionary government that they made every effort to sabotage the General Election. Reactionary newspapers such as Vietnam, Thiet Thuc, Dong Tam called for the General Election boycott. The reason given was that Vietnam faced too many difficulties, with the people’s low literacy level, therefore it was necessary to focus on fighting against hunger, illiteracy and foreign invaders.

However, Ho Chi Minh firmly claimed that the people knew their rights and responsibilities and how to use their votes. The General Election would definitely succeed. On 24 November, 1945, Cuu Quoc (National Salvation) newspaper, the Viet Minh Front’s dissemination and communication expressed Ho Chi Minh’s viewpoint on this issue:

“It is still known that the majority of Vietnamese people do not know how to read and to write, however this cannot be the ground to conclude that the Vietnamese people are not eligible for electing representatives. Thinking that is knowing nothing about the masses and politics. Based on the widespread movements “Fight French, expel Japanese”, it can be seen that the people have a rather abundant political consciousness. Political consciousness is the most necessary conditions to distinguish who is enemy, who is friend, and who deserves being the people’s true representative. In other words, people cannot read, write, cannot discuss far-flung things, but one thing they surely and clearly know, more than anyone else, is their interests... They stand by those who defend and fight for their interests and oppose those who violate their interests... Only through the General Election can the people have the opportunity to fully express their wish, and only the Government founded via the General Election is the true and loyal representative of the whole nation and people”(2).

It is said that if you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse. To overcome the situation that the people cannot read or write, which could have impacts on the election, Article 36-38 of Decree No. 51 clearly stipulates: “For those who are illiterate, the Board in charge at polling stations establish a 3-member team to help voters exercise their voting right in accordance with a procedures, in which one helps to write in the voting paper, the two others check. After that, this team has to make an oath in front of the voter that they have done according to the voter’s wish, which will be absolutely kept in secret”. This was an extremely creative, unique and suitable point, given the country’s literacy level at that time, particularly the poor people who could not afford to go to school.

The atmosphere of freedom and democracy in the election pervaded every corner of the country. The number of candidates was quite high. There were self-nominated people in every locality. The meetings between delegates and voters took place excitedly. The preparation for the General Election was urgently done in the context of internal and external enemies and extreme political, socio-economic difficulties.

To encourage the people to directly go to the election, on January 5, 1946 (the day before the election), in his call to the nation to vote, President Ho Chi Minh clearly stated: “Tomorrow is January 6, 1946. Tomorrow will bring our nation to a new path. Tomorrow will be a joyful day for our people, because tomorrow is the General Election day, because tomorrow will be the first day in the Vietnamese history when the people begin to enjoy their democratic right. Tomorrow, our people will clearly show the soldiers in the South that: for military, the soldiers use guns to fight against the enemy; for the politics, the people use voting-papers to oppose the enemy. A voting-paper is as powerful as a bullet. Tomorrow, all voters must remember to go to polling stations. Tomorrow, each person should enjoy the right of an independent and free citizen”(3). Ho Chi Minh’s calling encouraged and motivated the entire Vietnamese people to actively and excitedly cast a vote, exercising rights and obligations of citizens.

In the extremely difficult historical context, the people were still wholeheartedly committed to the Party and the new Government, participating enthusiastically and responsibly in the first General Election. They showed a high sense of their right to mastery, 89% of voters went to vote in 71 provinces and cities.

Therefore, it was Ho Chi Minh’s will, determination and trust of the Communist Party of Indochina and Viet Minh that created the success of the first General Election’s success in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

2. Determination of building a socialist democracy in Vietnam today

Vietnam follows the socialist path, it is inevitable to build and develop a socialist democracy. During the country’s renewal, the Communist Party of Vietnam has always determined, “The entire organization and operation of our country’s political system in the new period is to build and step by step perfect the socialist democracy, ensuring the power belongs to the people”(4).

With the efforts of the Government and people across the country, the building of socialist democracy in Vietnam, has progressed remarkably in recent years. Democracy has been promoted in many fields, associated with the building of the State of the people, by the people and for the people. The people’s mastership has been better promoted in all areas of social life, especially in politics and economics. However, we also understand that, from issuance to successful realization of guidelines and policies is an extremely difficult process. Besides achievements, the 12th National Party Congress (2016) pointed out the shortcomings of the socialist democracy building in Vietnam in the renewal (Doi Moi) period. Awareness of democracy among cadres, party members and people is still limited. There is separation, even contradiction between democracy and discipline, law in many places. The people’s right to mastery has been violated in a number of places and sectors. At times and in some places, the exercise of democracy is limited or formalistic. There appears the abuse of democracy to cause division to internal solidarity, create disturbance, affecting national security, social order and safety. When democracy is not really and fully implemented, it is difficult to absolutely mobilize the endogenous strength of the nation.

Currently, Vietnam is not yet a developed country. There is still a relative gap between its socio-economic development and that of other countries in the world and in the region. From Vietnam’s historical reality post 1945, it can be seen that the building democracy and ensuring the realization of the people’s right to mastery has entirely depended on socio-economic factors. Sometimes, the belief and determination of the leader is the decisive factor.

President Ho Chi Minh always considered democracy as an effective and a master key to solving all difficulties. He affirmed that, “Only by promoting democracy to the highest level, all forces of the people can be mobilized to move the revolution forward”(5). So, who promotes democracy? It can be understood that the Party and State must be the subjects promoting democracy via guidelines and policies. The Party and State are collective organizations, however, at the first place are individuals holding leadership positions. After that, each cadre and party member must be clearly aware of the role of democracy, thereby determined to ensure the realization of the people’s right to mastership.

Normally, when the socio-economic level develops, more attention will be paid to politics. The people will have clear awareness and claim their political rights. Gradually, leaders have to realize the people’s right to master right, to build a true democracy no matter how they like it or not. It is because they clearly understand the democracy’s values to the national development. A government will end up paying the price if it is dictatorial, deliberately not enforcing democracy. However, when the socio-economic premise is not high, the building and exercise of democracy also needs “orientation”.

This path must surely originate from a progressive democratic government, a government with mindful leaders who are determined in ensuring the exercise of the people’s right to mastery in all fields, firstly in politics. In places with low intellectual level, where people do not understand or are not aware of their rights, it is the duty of cadres and party members to disseminate, explain and guide them. In places with low economic level, cadres and party members must be more determined in ensuring the execution of the people’s right to mastery. The people’s status of power subjects and the people’s right to mastery is stipulated in the Constitution and law, thus the leader together with the leadership team must be determined to exercise and create an environment for realization of the people’s right to mastery.

When a wide democracy is built in society, the working people will promote their activeness and self-consciousness. Since then, the labor force will be liberated, all potentials of the country promoted, creating the general strength of the country. Democracy becomes the driving force for the country’s economic and social development. Thereby, the labor force is liberated, and all the country’s potentials are promoted, creating the country’s comprehensive strength. Democracy becomes the driving force for the country’s socio-economic development.



(1) N.M.Voskresenskaia, N.B.Davletshina (2009), Democracy - State and Society (translated by Pham Nguyen Truong), Tri Thuc Publishing House, Hanoi, p.40.

(2), (4) Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, vol.4, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2011, p.7, 166-167.

(3) The National Salvation Newspaper, November 24, 1945, was stored at the Ho Chi Minh Museum.

(5) CPV: Document of the Party Congress in the doi moi period, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2005, p.327.

(6) Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, vol.12, The National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2011, p.376.

Dr. Nguyen Thi Lan Phuong

Faculty of Political Theory, Vietnam Univeristy of Commerce

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