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Left wing seen gaining in Salvador elections

Rosalinda watched disdainfully as some of her fellow street vendors hung red, white and blue balloons and crepe-paper streamers for Mayor Mario Valiente's visit to this capital's deteriorating downtown.

"He's campaigning for re-election, so he'll come down here and hug all the drunks and kiss the sweaty market ladies," said the clothing merchant, who asked that her last name not be used. "But when you need something and go down to city hall, no one will see you."

Analysts say such sentiments convey desgaste, the erosion of an incumbent's support. Polls indicate that the extreme right-wing National Republican Alliance, known as ARENA, is suffering desgaste in spades _ and that the party's domination of politics is likely to deteriorate after today's mid-term election for mayors and Congress.

With 210 of the country's 262 city halls and 39 of the 84 congressional seats and the presidency under ARENA control, the party is being blamed for all of the country's ills _ from poverty, joblessness and street crime to inefficient garbage collection.

ARENA leaders acknowledge that their party will probably lose 20 to 30 city halls to the guerrillas-turned-politicians of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front.

Analysts say that while the front, which has 21 seats in Congress, is not likely to take over ARENA's dominant position there, the right-wing party should be prepared for considerable losses.

"After the peace agreement was signed (in 1992), expectations were incredibly high," political analyst Luis Cardenal said. "In the last two elections, candidates have made promises that were difficult to keep. This will be a vote of punishment."

BAHAMAS GOVERNMENT RE-ELECTED: Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham's Free National Movement took 34 out of 40 seats in Bahamian elections Friday, trouncing the Progressive Liberal Party led by former prime minister and independence leader Sir Lynden Pindling.