January 6, 1946 marked an important event in Vietnam’s history when the Vietnamese people were, for the first time, entitled to elect with their votes talented and virtuous persons to the National Assembly to shoulder the national affairs. Through 75 years of its development with 14 terms, the National Assembly, established with the people’s votes, confirmed the goal of building a state of the people, by the people and for the people, which is being materialized by the entire Party and the entire people. The election of deputies to the 15th National Assembly, to be held on May 23, constitutes a new landmark in the history of the Vietnamese National Assembly, which has constantly developed with many important achievements in constitutional and legislative activities as well as in making decisions on major issues of the country.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Thi Thu Ha
National Academy of Public Administration
The 1946 general election marked the growth of the Vietnamese revolutionary state
After the great victory of the August 1945 Revolution, despite numerous difficulties and trials, on September 3, 1945, only one day after the emergence of the revolutionary state following the Proclamation of Independence, the Provisional Government held its first session. At this session, President Ho Chi Minh put forward six urgent tasks. He proposed the Government to “organize as soon as possible a general election with universal suffrage, in which all citizens, male or female, aged full 18, are entitled to the election and candidacy rights, regardless of their economic status, religion or race…”.
On September 8, 1945, the President of the Provisional Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam issued Decree 14-SL, providing the organization of a general election to elect deputies to the National Assembly. The Decree clearly stated: The Resolution of the National Congress held on August 16-17, 1945, in the liberation zone, ruled that Vietnam followed the political regime of democratic republic and the People’s Government would be set up by the National Assembly elected through universal suffrage. Later, various decrees were issued successively in 1945 with a view to creating more favorable conditions for candidates, such as Decree 39-SL of September 26, on the establishment of the Drafting Committee for the General Election’s regulations; Decree 51-SL of October 17, which stipulated that the general election would be carried out under the regime of universal suffrage with direct election and secret ballots; and Decree 71-SL of December 2, supplementing Article 11, Chapter V of Decree 51-SL.
Hectic preparations were made for the general election under harsh conditions with domestic enemies, foreign invasion as well as socio-economic plights struck by famine and illiteracy. Election boards were set up in villages and communes by People’s Committees at various levels. Many people with talents and good morality stood for the election or were nominated as candidates by the people. Lists of voters and candidates were made and publicly posted up.
One day before the general election, on January 5, 1946, President Ho Chi Minh declared before more than 20,000 people at a meeting in support of the general election: “Tomorrow will be the joyful day of our people as it is the general election day, the first ever in the Vietnamese history when the people enjoy their democratic rights.”
The general election took place in a stirring atmosphere nationwide in spite of the enemy’s treacherous and blatant ploys of sabotage in the North, and the French colonialists’ attacks with bombs and guns in the South. In Hanoi, 91.95 percent of voters in 74 inner districts and 118 suburban villages went to the polls in a festive atmosphere of democracy.
Voters had elected for the first National Assembly 333 deputies with 57 percent representing different political parties, 43 percent being non-partisans, 87 percent being workers, peasants or revolutionaries, 10 women, and 34 ethnic minority people. The National Assembly was composed of deputies from all three regions - Northern, Central and Southern, various social strata, revolutionary veterans, merchants, intellectuals, cultural activists, and religious dignitaries.
The 1946 general election was held on the most democratic and progressive principles, that are universality, equality, direct election and secret ballots. The emergence of the first National Assembly of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam constituted a glorious milestone marking the leap-and-bound development of the democratic institution in Vietnam.
The victory of the general election demonstrated the growth of the Vietnamese revolutionary state, ushering in a new era for the country with a National Assembly, a unified government, a progressive constitution and a nominally and legally complete system of administrations representing the Vietnamese people in internal and external affairs. The election served as a basis to affirm that the Democratic Republic of Vietnam state was lawful and democratic, a state of the people, by the people and for the people, which was assigned by the entire people the important tasks of administering the country, organizing the all-people war of resistance and national construction, and dealing with all relations of Vietnam on the international arena.
In the context of untold difficulties and hardships confronting the Vietnamese revolution, the Communist Party of Vietnam’s and President Ho Chi Minh’s decision to hold the general election proved to be clear-sighted and timely with political alertness and profound scientific and practical values. The success of the parliamentary election further reiterated the correctness and creativity of the Party’s line and policies, reflecting the Vietnamese people’s earnest aspirations for independence and freedom. The success also testified to the absolute confidence of the Party and President Ho Chi Minh in people’s patriotism and showed the nation’s deep longing for democracy and the strength of the great national unity bloc.
The victory of the general election as stated by President Ho Chi Minh at the first session of the first National Assembly was “… resulted from the sacrifices and struggles of our ancestors, from the unity and heroic struggle of the entire Vietnamese compatriots, old and young, of all religions and ethnicities, on Vietnam’s territory, into a bloc, sacrificing for the independence of the Fatherland despite all dangers.”
Cuu Quoc (National Salvation) newspaper, issue 130 dated December 31, 1945, published President Ho Chi Minh’s writing on “significance of the general election”, clearly pointing to the election and candidacy rights: “In the general election, anyone who cares for the national affairs will have the right to stand for election, and all citizens will have the right to go to the polls, regardless of their gender, economic status, religion, social class or political party. Those who are Vietnamese citizens will all have these two rights.”
|Members of Hanoi’s Thanh Tri agricultural cooperative cast their votes to elect deputies to the 3rd National Assembly__Photo: VNA|
The 1946 general election affirmed the resolve to build up democracy
The emergence of the first National Assembly and the first general election were closely associated with the great historic turning points of the Vietnamese nation. After the Democratic Republic of Vietnam came into being, together with the protection of national independence and freedom, one of the primary important tasks was to consolidate and strengthen the administration.
It can be said that the state administration in Vietnam was established right after President Ho Chi Minh read the Independence Proclamation, giving birth to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam on September 2, 1945. However, such state was not a legally and organizationally complete apparatus, which was then merely a provisional administrative apparatus. In order to guarantee the state’s legality and prestige before the entire population and the world community, President Ho Chi Minh clearly pointed out the necessity to elect the National Assembly as soon as possible.
Obviously, the victory of the January 6, 1946 general election, which elected the first National Assembly of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, was the victory of patriotism of the entire Vietnamese people, striving for an independent and unified nation, for a peaceful, free and happy life. It was the victory of the new regime, a democratic republic established for the first time in Vietnam. It was also the victory of the correct revolutionary line, the policy of great national unity of the Communist Party and President Ho Chi Minh. The success of the general election testified to the political consciousness of the people from all walks of life who, for the first time, exercised their right to be masters of the country and society through their votes to elect their representatives.
At the first session of the first National Assembly on March 2, 1946, President Ho Chi Minh, on behalf of the Government, proposed the addition of non-elected 70 persons to the total number of National Assembly deputies, including 20 of the Vietnam Revolutionary League and 50 of the Nationalist Party of Vietnam. The National Assembly approved such proposal, showing the entire-people unity. The Legislature also adopted the Declaration of the National Assembly before the Vietnamese people and the world that sovereignty of the independent Vietnam belongs to the entire Vietnamese people, the destiny of the Vietnamese State lies in the hand of the Vietnamese National Assembly, and the political regime of Vietnam is the democratic republic tasked to protect the freedom and happiness of people of all strata. The National Assembly elected the Standing Committee to perform on its behalf the parliamentary tasks.
The success of the general election and the first session of the first National Assembly manifested the growth and development of the Vietnamese revolutionary state. The election with universal suffrage, direct election and secret ballots was truly democratic. Right after its formation, the National Assembly was truly a powerful body of the entire Vietnamese people. It appointed an Official Government to administer the national affairs while exercising its legislative right with the drafting of the Constitution as the central task. The executive body was the Government appointed by the National Assembly and consolidated in terms of its functions, tasks and organizational apparatus. It was an administration built on a firm legal ground and supported by the entire population.
In March 2, 1946 morning, nearly 300 deputies met at the Hanoi Opera House. There, the Provisional Government reported before the National Assembly on the victory of the general election as well as on jobs undertaken by the Provisional Coalition Government and concluded in success. The National Assembly discussed the National Coalition Government and elected Ho Chi Minh as its President.
At the proposal of the Government, the Standing Committee of the National Assembly convened the second session of the National Assembly in Hanoi from October 29 to November 9, 1946. Among the important contents of this session was the discussion and passage of the Constitution. This was an evitable step of the political-legal struggle after the National Coalition Government was set up.
On November 9, 1946, the National Assembly voted to pass the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam with 240 out of 242 deputies voting for. The first Constitution of an independent state has seven chapters and 70 articles. This was the Constitution of the period of national democratic revolution, being the legal foundation for the building of a law-ruled state and the formulation of Vietnam’s first legal system.
In his closing speech at the second session of the first National Assembly, President Ho Chi Minh said: “Within over 14 months after the country gained freedom, the first Constitution in the national history was promulgated. This was also the historical vestige as the first constitution in Southeast Asia. It declared before the world that Vietnam was independent, that the Vietnamese people were entitled to all democratic freedoms, and that Vietnamese women were equal to men to enjoy all democratic freedoms of citizens. That Constitution spelt out the spirit of close solidarity among the Vietnamese ethnicities and the spirit of honesty, righteousness and equality of all social classes.”
Since the first general election in 1946, the Vietnamese National Assembly has constantly developed through 14 tenures, recording important achievements in constitutional and legislative activities, in supreme oversight activities, and in deciding on important national issues, thus greatly contributing to the achievements of the renewal cause, and heightening Vietnam’s role and position on the international arena.
Since its first tenure, the National Assembly has promulgated 5 Constitutions (it is not to mention the revised ones): the 1946 Constitution, the 1959 Constitution, the 1980 Constitution, the 1992 Constitution, and the 2013 Constitution, thereby improving the state of the people, by the people and for the people in conformity with the country’s requirements and tasks in each historical period. Together with the growth of the country, over the past 75 years, the National Assembly also enacted many important laws, thus helping institutionalize the people’s mastery and manage the society based on the Constitution and law.
In conclusion, the emergence of the first National Assembly and the promulgation of the 1946 Constitution constituted the initial steady steps of the Vietnamese State originating from the people’s confidence and strength, a law-ruled state of the people. Following the ideology of respecting the people, the Vietnamese Party and State have further inherited and promoted it for the objective of building a socialist law-ruled state of the people, by the people and for the people, making active contributions to the attainment of the goal for a prosperous people, a strong country, and an equitable, democratic and civilized society.-