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Globe editorial

The return of the polarizing Aristide Add to ...

The return of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide to Haiti is an unwelcome development.

His homecoming will only add to the country's political turmoil, make the second round of disputed elections more contentious, and the orderly transition of power more difficult.

Mr. Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest forced into exile, remains an extraordinarily popular, if divisive, figure. Regardless of whether he inserts himself into the political process, his very presence is polarizing. He was twice removed from office, in 1991 and 2004, and while his supporters blame his ousting on the U.S., his detractors accuse him of human-rights abuses.

"I cannot see a scenario where he will be helpful," says Peter Hakim, with the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington think tank. "He will undercut or compromise the formally elected president."

Several hundred of Mr. Aristide's supporters mobilized on Wednesday by setting fires in front of a government ministry. "We'll die for Aristide," they chanted. The government has said it will issue Mr. Aristide a diplomatic passport.

Mr. Aristide's former party, Famni Lavalas, was banned from running in the Nov. 28 elections on a technicality. Initial results placed the government-backed candidate, Jude Célestin, in second place against the front-runner,A Mirlande Manigat. But an Organization of American States report confirmed voting irregularities, and recommended that Michel Martelly, a popular musician, and not Mr. Célestin, proceed to the second round in March.

It is highly doubtful that Mr. Aristide's presence will lead to constructive engagement. If he really wants to help Haiti, he should stay put in South Africa.

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