Salvador's turbulent 1982 vote

The 1982 elections were held to elect a Constituent Assembly. The assembly delegates were assigned the task of drafting a new constitution, which they completed in December 1983. Presidential elections were scheduled to begin once the new constitution was ratified.

The 1982 vote was the first since the 1977 election of the National Conciliation Party's presidential candidate, Gen. Carlos Humberto Romero.

Six thousand people occupied the Plaza Libertad in San Salvador for six days in 1977 after the announced National Conciliation Party victory, protesting what they believed to be a fraudulent vote count. The government never released a tally of votes on that election.

Soldiers fired on the crowd on the sixth day of protest, killing an estimated 100 demonstrators. The killings, later labeled the ''Monday massacre,'' were important in forming the guerrilla movement.

The are charges of fraud in the 1982 elections, too. Electoral Commission president Armando Rodriguez Equizabal claims that ''more'' than 25 percent of the votes counted in the 1982 contest were fraudulent. Other members on the commission estimate fraudulent votes ranged from 15 to 25 percent of the count.

The US ambassador to El Salvador in 1982, Deane Hinton, said he would consider a turnout of 600,000 a great success in 1982. Two days before balloting , the Electoral Commission estimated 720,000 people would vote. But the official count was 1,551,680 - out of a voting population estimated by the US State Department at 1.5 million.

The Christian Democrats won a plurality of the votes with 35.5 percent of the total. The rightist parties won 52.3 percent, forming an alliance behind the National Republican Alliance (ARENA) party, led by Roberto d'Aubuisson. ARENA received only 25 percent of the actual vote. But with support from the other rightist groups, the controverisal cashiered Army major, d'Aubuisson, was elected the president of the Constituent Assembly.

The guerrilla insurgents condemned the 1982 elections, as they are condemning the elections in 1984, as exclusionist and unrepresentative. They refused to participate in 1982. They also questioned the integrity of those administering the 1982 contest.

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