The Liberal Party has won power here for the first time since it was ousted in a military coup 18 years ago.

With votes from all but a handful of municipalities counted, Liberal presidential candidate Roberto Suazo Cordova, 53, is the clear victor with 54 percent of the vote against 41 percent for his main opponent, National Party leader Ricardo Zuniga.

But as one Liberal politician here put it, "the presidency is no gift."

While most Hondurans are proud and exhilarated that elections actually took place, they are also deeply concerned about the future of the new government, given the severe economic and political pressures that afflict Central America.

The vote appears as much a rejection of military rule and Zuniga, long closely associated with the Army and frequently accused of sharing its corruption, as a mandate for Suazo Cordova.

Even leading members of the Liberal Party privately describe the corpulent politican and sometime medical doctor as a fiercely religious "nice guy" with little intellectual distinction and few detailed policy ideas.

"It is a choice," said one member of the Liberal Party's alienated left wing, "between ignorance and corruption."

Suazo Cordova inherited the Liberal Party's leadership after the death of its more charismatic chief, Modesto Rodas Alvarado in the early 1970s.

Despite National Party charges of fraud in the voter registration process and the exclusion of 39,000 voters for various technical reasons, international observers here, including Sen. Jesse Helms' aide John Carbaugh, concluded that the balloting yesterday was with few exceptions extraordinarily fair.

There are no allegations of military interference in the voting process, and several Hondurans believe that strong support for elections from the U.S. Embassy and visiting American politicians has reduced the chance of a military coup in the immediate future. The civilian government is to be installed Jan. 27.

With dangerous tensions at both the Nicaraguan and Salvadoran borders and the Army here increasingly on the defensive, few people predict with any confidence that Suazo Cordova will finish his four-year term. If he does he will be only the 13th elected president in this country's 160-year history with that distinction.130:Picture, ROBERTO SUAZO CORDOVE . . . win seen as vote against Army rule