'THE PHILADELPHIA Spring" it was not.

Tuesday's primary election, which drew out only 18 percent of eligible voters, was hardly the impassioned call for democracy that we have witnessed recently in the Arab world, in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and elsewhere.

The fact that the stirring protests and uprisings that managed to topple or weaken more than one regime were carried out against a backdrop of harsh government and military retailiation makes our performance Tuesday- when rain kept many people from the polls- something we can be especially ashamed about.

And we can't take pride even in the fact that those few voters who did manage to get out to the polls sent a blistering message about the Deferred Retirement Option Plan by ousting Frank Rizzo from his Council seat, and most probably, Marge Tartaglione from her long- time perch at the head of the city commissioners. DROP had become so toxic that five other Council members decided to retire rather than facing the prospect of losing over their participation.

The fact is, DROP became a big issue because of constant media attention on those elected officials who signed up to get a lump-sum payment - most far in excess of $100,000 - retire for a day, and then continue to collect their salaries. From a purely dollars-and-cents standpoint, the program cost the city from $10 million to $20 million a year. That's not nothing, but it's not gigantic, either. It is troubling that it took all this effort to fix one problem, when much bigger and more expensive problems are still looming.

Still, DROP did manage to get some people out to vote. Which is the only bright lining in an otherwise ominous cloud of apathy. So here's an idea: Maybe people would participate in democracy if we changed the term "vote" to "anonymously comment on websites." *