Created: 3/6/1984

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El Salvador: Election Outlook

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el salvador: election outlook

key judgments

this estiaaate is issued by the director of central intelligence.

the national foreign intelligence board concurs.

The followingrgaruxatiom participated in the preparation of the Estimott:

The Centiol brtefcgenc* Agency, tht Defente Intelligence Agency, the Notional Security Agency, and tho Intelligence organiiat>on of the Deportment of State.

Also Participating:

The Auntont Chief of Staff for fetotoence. Deportment of tke Aimyctor of Novo! bitefcgonee. Department of the Navy lhe Alililont Chief of Stoff, Intelligence. Deportment of the Air Force The Director of Intelligent. Headquarter*.Carps


key judgments

wc believe thearch presidential election in el salvador will lake place on schedule questions concerning voter registration,procedures, and development of an adequate security plan remain to be resolved, but there appears to be little chance (hat the contest will be canceled or postponed.

the stakes seem to be high for all elements in this election. reporting indicates that public interest is as keen as it was during the voting for the constituent assemblyn several opinion polls, producedariety of sponsors, overercent of tbe respondents said ihey want to vote. nevertheless, difficulties with the election registry and guerrilla disruptions could resultoter turnout somewhat below2 level indeed, the government, because of its inability to provide security, plum not to place ballot bones in overunicipalities.

six parties have chosen presidential and vice-presidentialand are actively campaigning. with the exception of the christian democrats, the parties are to varying degrees conservative. no party to the left of the christian democrats is expected to participate in the election

the military views the election as an essential factor for improving its international image and maintaining us assistance it lias pledged to remain neutral in lhe election and has reprimanded some officers for partisan political activities. at the tame time, however, the military is concerned about potential postelection tampering with its ownby the winner, and it is seeking to protect those prerogatives bya policy position paper with all parties prior to theact would do much to allay military concerns, but would not preclude coup plotting before or after the election, particularly if the christian democrats win

the marxist guerrillas of the farabundo marti national liberation front (fmln)and their political allies in the revolutionary democratic front (fdr) clearly regard the electionaior challenge. the guerrillas appear especially concerned that an honest electionarge voter turnout could strengthen the legitimacy of the government and harm their cause as the election didut the coming election does not represent for them the critical test that it does for the salvadoran government and participating parties.


The FDR-FMLN alliance has denounced the balloting as afarce, |

I In our judgment, the

insurgents are likely to step up attacks on selected towns and cities and to attempt various sabotage, terrorist, and other spectacular operations

against public utilities, bridges, and military installations.

guerrillas arc not likely toeneral

nationwide ollensive because they consider it too costly in men and materiel and fear it would be politically counterproductive. Instead, guerrilla actions probably will be aimed at eroding confidence in the government, undermining military morale, distracting attention from the electoral process, and reducing voter turnout in some key areas.

The armed forces will be stretched thin, and the insurgents may adjust their strategy depending on the results of the initial balloting. On balance, however, we believe that the armed forces can provide sufficient security in most areas of the country toarge election turnout and protect both rounds of balloting

It is unlikely that any of the slates for the three largest parties couldajority in thearch balloting. Instead, the two top parties probably will face one anotherunoff election, which must be held withinays after the Initial balloting results have been certified- The party coming in third onarch is likely toignificant role in determining the outcome of the runoff election.

The Christian Democratic Party (PDC) is likely tolurality of betweenndercent in the first ballot. The ultraconservative Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) probably will place second, followed by the moderately conservative National Conciliation Parlyunoff probably will take place in late April or early May between the PDC and ARENA candidates, with the PCN in the swing position. Although the PDC might be able lounoff wilhont direct support from the PCN, ARENA probably cannot In tlic event that the PCN agrees to support the PDC, as one source reports hasoccurred, the Christian Democrats' chances of winning would be enhanced.

The assassinationeading presidential contender would change the electoral situation dramatically The loss of Roberto D'Aubuisson woulderious blow to ARENA, but the assassination of Jose Napoleon Duurte would not necessarilymight evenfor the Christian Democratic Party because it couldtrong replacement candidate The assassination of cither major presidential candidate, however, would undermine the credibility of

lhe electoral process and could precipitate serious partisan violence after tlie balloting

Whoever is elected president of El Salvador will be constrained in exercising his. power by the military, by ihr current Legislative Assembly and that electedy the new Constitution, and, inevitably, by US policy demands. At the top of his agenda will be the need to reach an accommodation with tbe military and opposition politicalo mollify the private sector, and toontinued flow of US military and economic assistance.

The victoryonservative coalition headed by ARENA leader Roberto D'Aubuisson would probably result in the eventual undoing of reforms and the loss of needed domestic and international support. The first reaction of the military will fx? to keep him in line, and support from the armed forces and the private sector could sour over lime. An attempt to further politicize the military, for example, could leadrisis within ihe officer corps. Moreover,utoff in USajor confrontation between the government and the military could ensue.

Despiteiews on counterinsurgency tactics, he is not likely to deal more effectively with the guerrillas D'Aubuissonimplistic prescription for the"scorched earth"-tliat does not deal with the current reality of the war. The Army would be no more capable than before of dealing with trained and well-coordinated insurgent units that can draw on considerable external support.ampaign of brutal repression would cause popular support to drop andutoff in foreign aid. Moreover, some officers and men would recoil from the tactics of suppression. There would be desertions to the guerrillas, increasing popular support for the guerrillas,arge refugee exodus

Meanwhile. ARENA'S unsavory image abroad would limit its ability to secure foreign economic loans and aid, further reducing the potential for businessmen to invest in the economy. Most labordislike ARENA policies, and intimidation of moderates and liberals by ARENA could cause members of the democratic opposition to side with lhe insurgents or leave tbe country Clearly,overnment wouldface negative public opinion in the United States, particularly if the human rights situation did not improve. This would make it even more difficult for Washington to carry out its policies in El Salvador and elsewhere in the region.

We believe the implicationsictoryentrist coalition led by Christian Democratic candidate Duarte for the future of El

for vs regionalbe significantly more favorable than would be the case with an ultralight victory. The standing of EI Salvador with some Latin American and West European countries would improve, and US policy toward San Salvador would be more acceptable internationally Moreover, in an effort toolitical solution to theentrist government would probably be mure inclined to move toward reconciliation with those insurgent elements who could be persuaded to participate in therocess.

ictoryhristian Democratic-dominated coalition would be divisive if Duarte and the rest of the Christian Democratic leadership were to pursue policies that the private sector and the armed forces perceived to be inimical to their institutional interests and their ability to conductore vigorous reform programestructuring of the mililary command Even if the Christian Democratic leadership and its coalition partners respected the military's prerogatives, political machinations by the extreme right and disinformation by the extreme left could rdnforce the armed forces' deep suspicion of the Christian Democrats, generating major tensions and impeding the leadership's ability to govern.

The electionsecessary step in the transition to democracy, but by themselves they will notear-term solution lo endemic political, social, and military' institutional problems Violence will continue, and US pressure and support will still be required to achieve political, economic, and mililary progress.

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