Parliamentary elections were held in South Vietnam on 30 August 1959, resulting in an overwhelming victory for President Ngô Đình Diệm and the government. The regime won all but two of the 123 seats in the National Assembly, taken by five pro-government political parties and pro-government independent candidates. The elections allowed some liberalization in terms of freedom of speech, but the Diệm regime continued to maintain rigid control over the election process. Despite considerable efforts in preventing a small number of opposition candidates from standing during the election through the use of army soldiers bussed in to stuff ballot boxes to support the pro-government candidates, two independent candidates from the opposition were elected – Phan Quang Đán and Phan Khắc Sửu. However, during the first inaugural session of the National Assembly, Đán and another independent deputy, Nguyen Tran were not permitted to attend and were arrested and charged with electoral fraud.
North Vietnam suggested to Diệm that the pre-electoral consultative conference should be held. This was done in May and June 1956, in July 1957, in May 1958 and again in July 1959. The offer was to be negotiated between North and South Vietnam, on the basis of "free general elections by secret ballot." All such offers were rejected. Diệm refused to have the election called for in Article 7 of the Declaration of the Geneva Agreements, as the former State of Vietnam did not signed to the Geneva Agreements – therefore it did not abide to any of its agreements. The United States supported him fully. The result of such refusal was the disastrous civil war which ensued. American Senator Ernest Gruening, in a speech delivered to the United States Senate on 9 April 1965 said "That civil war began... when Diem's regime—at our urging—refused to carry out the provision contained in the Geneva Agreement to hold elections for the reunification of Vietnam." The accusation of the Senator was correct. What he failed to tell the Senate, and thus to the American people however, was the fact that the real culprits responsible for such a breach of faith had not even been mentioned. This for the simple reason that they were active, behind the scenes, in the corridors of a secretive diplomacy, which was beyond the reach of the government.