PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI, DEC. 5 -- Visitors found a vermin-ridden human hand today lying on the dusty cobblestones of a busy intersection in the downtown slum of Carrefour-Feuilles.

One night last week a machete-armed mob hacked up a police sergeant at the crossroads, believing he was a terrorist seeking to halt last Sunday's national elections. His killers cut off his hand. The body was removed the following day, but no one disposed of the hand left behind.

Meanwhile, across town next to the cathedral, a Haitian woman in a grimy red nylon dress found a dead man yesterday morning, his head destroyed apparently by the bullets of antielections gunmen, a few feet from the spot where she usually sets up a small chewing gum stand.

Unperturbed, the merchant put up her rickety table as usual, hoping to sell extra candy to passers-by who stopped to look at the corpse.

Five months of political savagery, which culminated with the terrorist disruption of the presidential elections last Sunday, have benumbed many Haitians whose lives are already degraded by hunger, squalor and ignorance.

The past six days brought only a stunned quiescence from frightened voters, echoed in confused reactions from frustrated politicians.

"The people seem so down and depressed since they realized on Sunday that those who don't want elections aren't only shooting into the air," said a western diplomat who knows Haiti well.

"What do you do after a bomb falls? You dig out," said another western diplomat to describe the mood.

Since assuming power in February 1986, the National Government Council and the armed forces headed by Gen. Henri Namphy have been trapped between the lingering, violence-prone forces of the Duvalier dictatorship and a new generation of inexperienced, at times impolitic democrats seeking to reform a corrupt, impoverished society.

While Namphy insists he will step down from power early next year and disavows any support for a Duvalierist presidential candidate, he clearly wants to ensure the continued political clout of the armed forces.

The apathy that settled over Port-au-Prince this week, diplomats and Haitian politicians said, reflected the realization that Namphy and his Army clearly aligned themselves Sunday with remnants of the former regime in a switch of power politics that seems likely to leave an enduring legacy of unrest in Haiti.

"The structure of the old regime hasn't disappeared. And after Sunday the traditional power brokers on every side -- the Army, even the church -- are losing their grasp on the people," observed one worried Haitian economist.

A handful of hard-core Duvalier loyalists who still live in Haiti apparently foresaw that any democratically elected government would put an end to the influence they still enjoy at the National Palace.

One of the most widely acclaimed clauses in a constitution approved in a referendum earlier this year was number 291, which bars former Duvalier officials from running for public office for a decade.

The Duvalier allies' effort to retain a foothold seems to have been concerted. Among those who chose to defy the constitutional ban this summer and run for president was Clovis Desinor, 72, one of the leading intellectuals of the mix of black nationalism, witchcraft and repression that kept Francois (Papa Doc) Duvalier in power from 1957 until his death in 1971. He was succeeded by his son, Jean Claude Duvalier.

Desinor served for a decade in Duvalier's cabinets. He cuts an elegant figure with his cane and gold-rimmed spectacles, a living emblem of "Papa Doc's" rule.

Desinor warned that if an independent electoral board blocked him from running it would be "sowing the seeds of civil war," and he added: "The people will do what they must."

Truckloads of regular Army troops protected the Oct. 13 rally where Desinor inaugurated his campaign, political observers said.

Some observers said Desinor could still attract a following among the minority of Haitians who benefited from Duvalier's patronage, admired his strongman style and recall the stability of his rule in comparison with the past 22 months of turmoil.

Along with 12 other candidates, Desinor was formally barred Nov. 3 from the presidential elections by the electoral board. Yesterday relatives at his Port-au-Prince home said he is refusing to see American journalists.

Another barred presidential candidate was Claude Raymond, a godson of Francois Duvalier and an Army general. Several nights last week when the streets of the capital were deserted, witnesses said armed men crowded in front of Raymond's home in a fashionable suburb.

Gabra Tuler, a Swiss development official, was wounded with a shot in the back on the night of Nov. 28 as she passed Raymond's house on the way to her own residence in the same neighborhood, diplomats said.

One historian noted that many of the Duvalier loyalists who came forward to run were associated with Papa Doc, but were sidelined during the 14-year rule of Jean Claude (Baby Doc), whom they regarded as spoiled and incompetent. Several of Francois Duvalier's supporters argued that they should be allowed to run in the elections because they had no part in the flagrant corruption and economic decline of "Baby Doc's" period.

It remains unclear who commanded the terrorists who burned and killed to halt Sunday's elections.

"Everyone knows and no one knows," remarked one U.S. official.

Some of the thugs are believed to be former members of the Duvalier militia known as the Ton-Tons Macoutes. Diplomats estimate there may be no more than 3,000 of them left nationwide. But the term, which means "bogeyman," has now come to refer popularly to anyone believed loyal to Duvalier.

The group of terrorists was small. Journalists who came under fire spotted the same white sedans carrying gunmen in different shooting incidents. The gunmen targeted precincts where Ton-Tons Macoutes once held sway, such as the community near the Argentine School where 16 voters were murdered.

Dozens of known Ton-Tons Macoutes and Haitians associated with them have been hunted and sometimes murdered by vengeful mobs since Jean-Claude Duvalier fled on Feb. 6, 1987. Some grass-roots community groups that organized among the poor advocate rache manyoc, a Creole term that means to pull up a manioc plant by its deepest roots. The call originally meant for Haitians to purge remaining political influences of the Duvalier dictatorship. But the phrase has occasionally been used to justify vigilante attacks that added to the spiral of brutality.

Numerous witnesses reported that Army troops joined in Sunday's election assaults. Robert White, an American elections observer and former ambassador in Latin America, said he saw a "reciprocal relationship" between Army regulars and Ton-Tons Macoute riflemen on a day when the defense minister, Gen. Williams Regala, forbade anyone but members of the armed forces from carrying weapons.

On Monday, after the election-day carnage, new graffiti that read, "Long live the Army!" were scribbled on the walls of Port-au-Prince.

Namphy allowed some of his officers to back the Duvalierists to win his continuing battle with the nine-man electoral board, which he saw as biased, left-leaning and arrogant, political observers said. The general also sought to stave off disunity among his own officers, most of whom served much of their careers under the Duvaliers.

The general has said in private and public that he is eager to step down as head of state in February. But sources who know him describe a military leader isolated from civilian and foreign sentiment and entrenched in the narrow views of his officer corps.

In recent conversations Namphy referred more frequently to the armed forces than to the three-man government council he heads and portrayed himself as a man who kept his soldiers together despite attempts by politicians to divide them. Namphy and other officers were also incensed by reports that some presidential candidates planned to try military officers for past crimes and create a separate police force.

The principal candidates have denied such intentions.

Namphy does not intend to see a Duvalier loyalist emerge as president from a new round of elections that the government council will try to organize under its control in January, sources said. But he wants a president who will pose no threat to the power and structure of the armed forces.

Four leading presidential candidates have joined the three major trade unions in calling for a general strike Monday to compel the government to hold free elections. Two of the top candidates, Silvio Claude of the Christian Democratic Party and Louis Dejoie of the National Agricultural Industrial Party, called for an indefinite strike until the government council steps down. The other two, Marc Bazin of the Movement for the Installation of Democracy in Haiti and Gerard Gourgue of the National Front for Concerted Action, issued a joint communique calling for a two-day strike.