El Salvador Table of Contents
The National Conciliation Party (Partido de Conciliacion Nacional--PCN) was the dominant political party in El Salvador during the 1960s and 1970s, when it was closely associated with the military. Although its level of popular support was all but impossible to quantify because of institutionalized electoral fraud, the PCN had supporters among both the elite and the rural population, especially in areas where the armed forces served as the primary governmental presence. The party's showings in the 1982 Constituent Assembly elections and the first round of the 1984 presidential elections were respectable; it was Guerrero's almost 20 percent total that forced the voting to a runoff between Duarte and D'Aubuisson. From that point on, however, the PCN's support at the polls declined steadily. This appeared to be a by-product of the democratic transition in El Salvador. Under a system allowing open electoral competition, the military shifted its support to the party best positioned to ensure continued aid from the United States and to provide some measure of stability to the government. Until 1988 this party was the PDC. Deprived of its military connection, the PCN was left to fend for itself in a new and unfamiliar scheme of things. Given the polarizing tendencies of Salvadoran politics, parties without a mass base or superior organization tended to be marginalized. This clearly seemed to be the case with the PCN in the wake of the 1988 elections.
During its years in power, the PCN was a rightist party that implemented limited and controlled reform in an effort to placate nonelite sectors, such as the peasantry and the urban middle class. The image of the party, however, was tarnished severely by the harsh repression undertaken by the military and the so-called "death squads" in response to growing popular unrest in the 1970s (see The 1970s: The Road to Revolt , ch. 1). When the armed forces turned to the PDC in 1980 in an effort to lend legitimacy to the post-1979 junta governments, the separation of the PCN from the military was begun. Unfortunately for the PCN, however, the association between the two was strong in the public mind. Although this lingering perception may have helped the party among some rural voters, overall it was judged a liability by most observers. In response to this perceived image problem, the PCN in the mid-1980s was attempting to moderate its policy positions, adopt a social democratic platform, and reach out to labor and peasant groups. Any support that the PCN might pick up from these sources was expected to come at the expense of the PDC.
Data as of November 1988