Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier arrives at the...

Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier arrives at the courthouse with a police escort in Port-au-Prince on Tuesday. Credit: GETTY IMAGES

It's just what Haiti did not need: the sudden return of a dictator. As if it had not suffered enough from a Job-like list of calamities, the island nation now has to cope again with Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier.

Even as multiple theories rose and fell about the meaning of his return, police took him into custody yesterday. But it's not clear if that will lead to prosecution for the crimes of his murderous and corrupt regime, overthrown in 1986 by popular uprising, or whether he'll just be sent back to exile in France. Prosecution seems preferable, but Haiti, struggling every day just to survive, probably doesn't have the resources right now for that.

This much is certain: In all the chaos - after an earthquake, a hurricane, a cholera epidemic and a muddled presidential election - some Haitians actually saw Duvalier's return as hopeful. The sad irony is that a twice-elected former president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, is still in exile in South Africa.

What Haiti needs now is not a dictator, but a president who enjoys wide acceptance. A runoff of the Nov. 28 election is unlikely to produce that. So a new election is clearly needed.

This time the election should be open to more candidates and parties, to attract more voters. A popularly elected government with a real electoral mandate could help dispel the misplaced yearning for the lethal order of dictatorship. hN