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Salvador right-wing alliance may be coming unstuck

It now appears that the right-wing coalition emerging from last Sunday's balloting is flimsy.

In fact, the agreement by five rightist parties to form a coalition to keep President Jose Napoleon Duarte and his Christian Democratic Party from playing any role in the next government here may have come unstuck.

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After nearly a week of political jockeying, one person close to the maneuvering says ''Nothing is certain here. The situation is fluid, very fluid.''

That assessment is confirmed by officials of several of the parties involved, including the Partido de Conciliacion Nacional (PCN), which finished third in the voting.

President Duarte, in a press conference Thursday, said the Christian Democrats will not agree to any alterations of their extensive economic and social reform programs, including land reform. ''We will continue fighting for the structural changes,'' he said. ''We will do everything we can in order to assure the peasants that the land is theirs for good.''

President Duarte's remarks indicate he has not given up the fight to play a major role in the new government.

Behind this changing picture is a variety of pressures -- not the least of which is Washington's advice that the next Salvadoran government continues the economic and social reforms begun by the Duarte government if it wants US assistance to continue.

Political sources here say that both the US and Venezuelan embassies are deeply involved in the discussions going on among Salvadoran politicians about the formation and composition of a new government.

Washington and Caracas, through their ambassadors Deane R. Hinton and Dr. Leopoldo Castillo, are conferring regularly with representatives of the PCN and former Army Maj. Roberto d'Aubuisson's Alianza Republicana Nacionalista (ARENA), the two major political elements on the right.

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ARENA ran second in the vote count Sunday -- polling 29 percent, but trailing behind Mr. Duarte's Christian Democrats, who won a plurality of 41 percent of the votes cast. That plurality was not enough to keep the government in Christian Democratic hands, particularly if the rightist parties, led by ARENA and the PCN, coalesce, as they seemed to be doing early in the week.

Now the pressure is on the rightist parties to assure a continuing role for the Christian Democrats as the single largest political bloc in the country.

''To eliminate the Christian Democrats from any role in the future of El Salvador would be to disenfranchise the largest bloc of voters in the country,'' says an observer close to the political maneuvering.

This maneuvering is heating up as the final returns in the balloting for the constitutent assembly are tallied. At this writing late Thursday it appears likely the vote count will go over 1.2 million -- double most expectations.

The election was a mighty repudiation by voters of both the leftist guerrillas who have kept this country on edge for five years and their political allies.

The is no doubt the left also is engaged in a reassessment of its position in the Salvadoran equation. Some close to the political scene say the left, too, cannot be excluded from discussions of the political solution stemming from the election, even though it boycotted the vote.

A key argument for including the Christian Democrats in the discussions is that they represent a position lying between the collective right, which polled 59 percent of the vote, and the left, which did not take part in the election.

To exclude the Christian Democrats might well nudge elements within their party -- a centrist group with both moderate right and moderate left viewpoints -- more to the left and even to the guerrillas.

Still the Christian Democrats are anathema to many on the right, who bitterly resent them. President Duarte is particularly singled out for this resentment.

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