The official tally of El Salvador's highly publicized March 28 election may have been inflated by hundreds of thousands of votes to increase the election's propaganda value, researchers at the Catholic university here say.

However, they do not dispute the results, saying that the percentage of votes won by each of the six parties vying for seats in the National Constituent Assembly remains the same.

A 22-page article to appear this week in the magazine Central American Studies, the official voice of Central American University, concedes that the turnout was large, but argues that a turnout of 1.5 million voters as claimed by the government was impossible. They place the number at just over 777,000.

The article says, but does not try to prove, that the alleged vote inflation was the result of a deal struck by the government, the United States--which strongly supported the elections--the military and the leaders of the six parties. The contentions brought angry denials from Salvadoran and American officials.

Jorge Bustamante, head of the Central Elections Council that oversaw the voting, called the charges "ridiculous" and said, "We have nothing to hide." He offered to show the official voting records to investigators.