THE DUVALIER DYNASTY may have been expelled from Haiti, but its baleful influence lingers. The elements that gained their privilege under the Duvaliers, with their gunmen and their antidemocratic ways, scored a grim victory over the weekend. They saw to a level of terror and violence that forced cancellation of the elections that offered Haiti its only prospect of loosening the deadly grip of the past.

Once again the Haitians have been denied the opportunity that democracy gives a people to take charge of their own destiny. The party specially at fault is the three-man National Government Council, led by Gen. Henri Namphy, which has ostensibly ruled Haiti since Jean Claude Duvalier fled in February 1986. Not that any observer of its past performance was very surprised, but this council failed dismally the single task that could have justified its 22-month tenure: presiding over the process of Haiti's first direct elections for president and national assembly.

The governing council failed to support the independent electoral commission that the new constitution had empowered to run the elections. It failed to deploy the army in a fashion to ensure even minimal conditions of order during the run-up to the elections and on Election Day. The electoral council itself has a claim to moral authority, but it did not have the resources to make this claim prevail in the chaos that is Haiti today. The government dissolved it yesterday.

What is clear from the derailment of the Sunday voting, however, is that there is no substitute for free elections. The electoral process was and is Haiti's lone hope for emerging somehow from its current despair and articulating a plan for its future. The crowd running the governing council is tainted by its association with the Duvalier regime and, now, by its disastrous stewardship of the elections. Everybody in Haiti and friends of Haiti in the United States and elsewhere should look again at what must be done to restore the movement to democracy. A collapse into anarchy from which a new military strong man might emerge is no answer. There may be little experience with the self-discipline that democracy requires in Haiti, but there is a taste for democracy, and a need for it