The two men who emerged from El Salvador's elections leading the pack were the only two dramatic figures in a crowd of otherwise interchangeable politicians: President Jose Napoleon Duarte and his polar opposite, the rightist, cashiered military man, Roberto D'Aubuisson.
Both are widely hated, both widely loved, and they ran first and second in the massive vote on Sunday. News Analysis News Analysis They shared one other thing in the outcome: neither is expected to have any formal position in the new government.
Duarte, whose battered face and booming voice have made him this country's most recognizable political figure abroad in recent years, is unacceptable to the loose right-wing coalition that took 60 percent of the vote. He will remain crucial behind the lines, but his party will have all it can do in the constitution writing assembly to defend the sweeping reforms of land use, banking law and the economy that have become so closely identified with his party in the last two years.
D'Aubuisson, the young and energetic charismatic figure who promised a quick military solution to the rebellion here, is for the moment apparently unacceptable to the U.S. government, which is picking up the tab for $55 million in emergency military aid and is promising $105 million more in economic aid in this year. He is ambitious but, at 39, he can afford to wait.
The final, although unofficial, tally of the the returns gives Duarte's centrist Christian Democrats 40.7 percent, D'Aubuisson's far-right ARENA party 29.1 percent, and the kingmaker National Conciliation Party (PCN), the party of the old landed aristocracy, 18.4 percent.
The rest of the total was split between three small right-wing parties that together will have three seats in the 60-seat National Assembly. With 24, the Christian Democrats cannot dominate the assembly, which political leaders had originally predicted would sit for a year and elect an interim president. Leaders of the rightist parties who say they will form a coaltion are now suggesting that the assembly might stay in place up to three years.
The distribution of the votes suggests that three issues were predominant in voter thinking: the reform policies associated with Duarte, the guerrilla left and the war itself. All three cut both ways. "El Salvador is the sum of a collection of small details that only make sense individually," said a South American diplomat here.
The transfer of some land, and thus power, from wealthy families to a projected total of 60,000 peasants who used to work it has been a major accomplishment of the military-civilian junta that took power in October 1979 and which Duarte joined in March 1980 after other civilian politicians quit, primarily because of the military's failure to curb human rights abuses. The nation's banks and its import-export businesses were nationalized by the junta in large part to finance the land reform program.
The right is now saying privately that its win proves these reforms are not popular, and that guerrillas reflect not the anger of impoverished, hopeless peasants but externally agitated subversion. The parties all promised to maintain the reforms, but in a "perfected" state. "That could mean let's fix it so it won't work," said another diplomat.
A high Christian Democratic official warned that the promise to preserve the changes is empty. "They had to lie to the people to win their confidence," he said. A National Conciliation spokesman was evasive, saying that future changes would have to be worked out.
In the agricultural provinces of Santa Ana, Sonsonate and Ahuachapan, where land reform displaced a few large landowners and gave their former peasant workers some power and a future for the first time in history, the Christian Democrats ran ahead of D'Aubuisson's ARENA by substantial margins. But in Cuscatlan, where land reform has taken property, most of which has neither been paid for nor conveyed permanently to the former tenant farmers, ARENA led the vote 2 to 1.
"Section 207 cost us Cuscatlan, parts of Cabanas and the San Sebastian area," said a high Christian Democratic official. He referred to the so-called "Land to the Tiller" decree of 1980 that promised much to tenant farmers but has yet to deliver. In short, where land reform has worked, it brought in votes. Where it has not, it drove them away. With each legislative seat worth about 20,000 votes, land reform might have cost the Christian Democrats one seat, but it probably brought in three or four.
The benefit might have been greater, according to one theory, if National Conciliation had not shown such surprising strength. Once the party of the big landholders, the military and the bureaucrats, the National Conciliation now includes lawyers, storekeepers, small industrialists and teachers. It is also the stronghold of the rightist paramilitary group called ORDEN, which has been accused of many of the country's political murders and which was formally disbanded in 1979 in one of the first acts of the new junta.
ORDEN had around 100,000 members, many of whom later joined the Civil Guard or the Treasury Police to continue working for their definition of law-and-order in sometimes violent ways. The white-collar element is considered now to be in control of the party, but it clearly made use of the old ORDEN network on the important provincial cane-roots level, winning 18 percent of the vote and the role of power-broker in the upcoming national assembly. Family tradition and the still-existing National Conciliation machinery appear to have helped deliver the vote as well.
All of the parties who participated call the massive vote an undeniable repudiation of the leftist guerrillas of the Farabundo Marti Liberation Front and their political spokesmen, who refused to participate in elections organized by an Army that has dealt harshly in the past with leftist political figures. The election winners say the massive turnout legitimizes the process and their position in a way that rules out any government negotiating a settlement of the ongoing rebellion. As seen from here, it is not possible to argue any more that fear of government reprisal for nonvoting made a considerable number of people walk for hours, dodge guerrilla bullets and stand in lines for hours to vote.
"The guerrillas must be very depressed," said a Central American diplomat, "but they always calm their depression with combat." All sides expect a resurgent guerrilla effort, especially if the rightist parties move to weaken reform programs or fail to honor their promise to observe human rights.
The right now talks of offering "a better amnesty program" to try to bring some of the estimated 6,000 rank-and-file guerrilla fighters back into society. "There has never been any publicity about the program," said a high military officer. "Perhaps if we can show we mean it. . ."
D'Aubuisson's ARENA offered all-out war as a solution to the guerrilla problem. "First the struggle, then the peace," was its slogan. But 71 percent of the voters rejected that option by voting for other parties, while affirming in interview after interview that they wanted peace. ARENA's vote was heaviest in areas where the fighting has been worst, an indication either that those left alive are fed up and want a quick end to the dying, or that guerrillas in those areas promoted ARENA in accord with the leftist notion that fiercer repression will speed the dawning of revolution.
D'Aubuisson's circus-style campaign with its banners, bunting and leaflets was well funded by landowners, industrialists and wealthy families living now in Miami, and that undoubtedly enhanced his appeal to unsophisticated peasants. The campaign reportedly benefitted from the advice of the local office of the New York advertising firm, McCann-Erickson, that was hired by his backers.
His support can probably also be taken as a measure of the resistance to social change here and of the attraction of a handsome, smiling man offering simple solutions to complex problems.