Duarte's election is official, but his power is fragile
Jose Napoleon Duarte's first official act as president-elect of El Salvador was to request new military and economic aid - underscoring the incoming government's dependence on the United States.Skip to next paragraph
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But Mr. Duarte - who on Friday was officially declared the winner of the presidential election - is also appealing to the ultraright, the military, and to the private sector, knowing that his needs their support for his government to function.
Duarte's opponent in last week's vote, ultra-rightist ARENA candidate Roberto d'Aubuisson, now calls the election a ''farce.'' Last week he charged the Salvadorean Central Electoral Commission with fraud and contended that the US helped to orchestrate Duarte's victory. He is not expected to withdraw from the political process. But his effort to paint the vote as illegitimate is widely seen as a move to absolve ARENA of any sense of allegiance to the government.
The ultra-right retains a majority of members the nation's legislative body, the Constituent Assembly. And d'Aubuisson, who stepped down as president of the body to run for office, is widely expected to return to that post.
With the balance of the votes in the Constituent Assembly tipped in d'Aubuisson's favor, Duarte may find his programs stymied by the rightists. Over the past two years, the assembly has supported very conservative policies that were largely at odds with the more moderate policies favored by the Christian Democrats. The assembly actually abolished part of the US-backed land reform program.
That part of the land program, known as Phase II, is sometimes called ''the heart of the land reform program.'' It would have turned peasants.
Duarte has already expressed concern that d'Aubuisson and his wealthy allies in the private sector may attempt to ''destabilize'' the new government, which is to be inaugurated on June 1 for a five-year term. Duarte has promised to take early measures to ''calm down the business sector.''
But, the President-elect adds: ''I think d'Aubuisson has a big responsibility. He has to keep the Christian Democratic victory in mind. The ARENA people need to express their will publicly, their will to stop abusing authority and to obey the law and begin exercising the local, social discipline the country demands without hate and rancor.''
Although Duarte has traditionally been at odds with the military and oligarchy, he is not expected to have trouble actually staying in power. The prospect of continued, and possibly even increased, US military aid under Duarte has essentially pacified the military.
The armed forces continues to hold most of the real political power in the country, and few observers expect the Christian Democratic government to present a serious challenge to military control.
''Duarte may not be able to do much,'' says one political observer, ''but he will be able to stay in power. The Army has shifted from being employed by the oligarchy to being employed by the US government, and the US government wants Duarte in office.''
Duarte contends that the Salvadorean Army has created a special commission to investigate human rights abuses within its own ranks. He says he will appoint his own commission to try to eliminate death squads.
''They (the armed forces) have already created a commission to look into these problems,'' Duarte says, referring to the armed forces commission. ''It is they, not I, who will make the changes in the armed forces.''
Duarte received 53.6 percent of the May 6 vote, according to the Central Electoral Commission, with d'Aubuisson getting 46.4 percent.
D'Aubuisson, however, contends that ARENA tallies show he is the winner, with 52 percent of the vote to 48 percent for Duarte. D'Aubuisson has refused, however, to provide detailed vote counts to support his claim.
Responding to ARENA's charges that the US funded the Duarte campaign, the secretary-general for the Christian Democratic Party (PDC), Julio Rey Prendes, says:
''They (ARENA) have accused us in the past of being supported by Cuban or Soviet Communists and now they accuse us of being supported by the United States. This is ridiculous.''
He continued, ''ARENA should recognize the PDC victory,'' Prendes says, ''their attitude could provoke violence, which could have grave consequences for the country.''