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By Michael Rowan | El Universal

17.12.05 | The government can blame it on the U.S., blame it on the opposition, blame it on the voters, blame it on the CNE, blame it on the rain, blame it on Sumate, or blame it on one intelligent engineer who destroyed the credibility of its electronic voting machines in a single stroke, but it is all sound and fury signifying nothing. The voters didn't vote. They just refused to vote.

The government may be legal but it is no longer legitimate. That's just the way it is. And everybody knows it.

The government boasts of ten million votes ring hollow in Chavismo. The silence of those votes is deafening. Fewer voters turned out than the government has directly and indirectly in its own employ. Only a fraction of the voters dependent upon government largesse, power and intimidation, turned out to endorse the hand that feeds them.

This is not a question of the 25% who actively oppose the government plus the 25% who oppose the government and the opposition -- the so-called ni-ni voters - both staying home. No, this is a question of the other 50%, in the barrios, where people are supposed to believe in the revolution, and where both guns and butter were used to make it so. But most of them stayed home as well. In a parliamentary system, this government would resign in disgrace. But there is nothing that can disgrace this government. It has lost the capacity to be disgraced. It only registers shock.

Some truths are self-evident except to those who refuse to see. Governments are instituted by the governed, not by executive decree. Governments earn legitimacy from the consent of the governed, not from consent with itself. Democracy and pluralism and tolerance and dissent are not rights the government provides to the governed, but which inhere in the spirit of the governed. The verdict is in.

On the faces of government spokesmen, there is shock, anger and depression as they try to spin their way out of the obvious public verdict. Switch the TV channel and look at Saddam Hussein's face in the dock facing a real judge and an emotional witness telling the truth about the torture of his brother while his father looked on. That is the same look. That man in the dock, the "brother" of Venezuela's revolution, he has that same shocked, angry and depressed look. He can't believe what is happening, but it is happening, and right now.

Michael Rowan's column is published every Tuesday.

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