TWO years ago El Salvador's government promised its people that it would hold a presidential election at this time. With considerable pressure from the Reagan administration it has followed through. It is too early to know how democratic the election actually was. In the next few days observers who were in El Salvador during the Sunday voting can be expected to weigh in with their observations. As the dust from the often-confusing election settles, the broader picture will emerge.
In any case the election encompassed only the spectrum of candidates from moderate to ultra-right wing. It was boycotted by guerrillas, who feared that if their representatives had tried to participate in the process, they would have risked their lives.
Whoever the eventual winner, it will be some time before it becomes clear whether the election proves to have achieved the broader results the Reagan administration hopes for. The administration sought election of a government which would have much stronger support from both the Salvadorean citizenry and its Army.
The current Salvadorean government lacks strong popular support. In addition, the military is not willing to fight vigorously to save it - which is essential if the guerrillas are to be defeated.
Further, the Reagan administration realizes that if Congress is to be willing to provide adequate military and economic aid, the El Salvador government needs to be seen as legitimate within the United States, too.