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The purpose of voting was to give legitimacy to Saigon Government, which has been founded only on coups and power plays since November, 1963, when President Ngo Dinh Deim was overthrown by a military junta.
Few members of that junta are still around, most having been ousted or exiled in subsequent shifts of power.
Significance Not Diminished
The fact that backing of electorate has gone to generals who have been ruling South Vietnam for last two years does not, in Administration's view, diminish significance of constitutional step that has been taken.
The hope here is that new government will be able to maneuver with a confidence and legitimacy long lacking in South Vietnamese politics. That hope could have been dashed either by a small turnout, indicating widespread scorn or a lack of interest in constitutional development, or by Vietcong's disruption of balloting.
American officials had hoped for an 80 per cent turnout. That was figure in election in September for Constituent Assembly. Seventy-eight per cent of registered voters went to polls in elections for local officials last spring.
Before results of presidential election started to come in, American officials warned that turnout might be less than 80 per cent because polling place would be open for two or three hours less than in election a year ago. The turnout of 83 per cent was a welcome surprise. The turnout in 1964 United States Presidential election was 62 per cent.
Captured documents and interrogations indicated in last week a serious concern among Vietcong leaders that a major effort would be required to render election meaningless. This effort has not succeeded, judging from reports from Saigon.
Ken Slater is the Editor of www.miamitopics.com