Walking a few steps and taking a break in between, 95-year-old Pham Van Ca, a resident of Ly Thai To ward, Hoan Kiem district, said that he would personally cast his ballot in the upcoming general election.
“I have to stop for a break three times from here to the gate, and seven times to go to the polling station [pointing across the street], but I can go there and do the job by myself,” Ca told The Hanoi Times on the election day [May 23] for deputies of the 15th National Assembly and all-level People’s Councils of the 2021-2026 period.
In the previous 14 elections over a period of 75 years, Ca has never neglected his responsibility as a citizen. To this day, despite his old age, he has the enthusiasm and vigor of a young elector participating in the first National Assembly election in 1946.
At that time we yearned for freedom and independence. Thus, we saw the date of January 6, 1946 [Vietnam’s first election day] as an occasion to celebrate the country’s independence. From early in the morning, we dressed up the best way possible and called for others to vote,” Ca remembered, saying the 1946 election was a result of arduous sacrifice and struggle.
For Vietnamese people, the general election that year had significant meaning, especially as this was the first year marking the country’s independence after emerging from French and Japanese domination. From that moment, the Vietnamese people from slavery status became citizens of an independent state.
On January 5, 1946, President Ho Chi Minh called for the entire nation to vote:”Tomorrow is a happy day for our people because this is the day of the general election, the first day in Vietnam’s history that our people could exercise their democratic rights.”
Responding to the call from Uncle Ho, on January 6, 1946, millions of Vietnamese people across the country turned out to vote despite violent sabotage from French forces pretending to re-invade Vietnam.
Ca, at that time, was the second to vote in a historic moment in the country.
“At 95 years of age, this will be the 15th election for me, while the first was on January 6, 1946. I was the youngest balloter and second to cast the ballot after the oldest ones,” Ca said with an emotional voice.
“Everyone looked so excited and happy when we got to live the life of citizens in a free and independent country,” he added.
In addition to being the second in the history to vote, Ca proudly said he was a member of the election sub-committee and took part in the preparation process for suffrage, from printing posters, listing voters’ rolls, to disseminating information on the event.
For every task, Ca tried to do his best with a mindset of a young man living in a free country.
“On January 6, 1946, the ballot box was opened at 7am, but everyone had been at the polling stations one hour earlier. Holding their voter cards, we all felt proud and emotional,” Ca said.
Before the country’s unification in 1975, general elections took place in a unique situation of wartime. But the 5th National Assembly began its term in 1976 in a unified and peaceful Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
“I remember the voting at Chuong Duong ward in 1976, the first year after unification. On this historical day, people told each other that with peace, even eating porridge, we still felt happy,” Ca said.
Ca has four children and today, his family of three generations goes and cast their ballots together. He always reminds them that voting is a responsible act that requires voters to study candidates thoroughly to choose the right one.
No one should consider casting their votes as an obligation, but also their right as they decide on those that going to play a key part to propel the country to the next development phase.
“I hope that the young generation would choose wisely and elect worthy candidates. Vietnamese young people have huge potential, are hard-working and creative. They would be the platform that takes Vietnam further on the way to fairness, democracy and prosperity,” Ca said.