Thousands of Haiti protesters demand president to step down

Thousands of Haiti protesters demand president to step down
Police hold back demonstrators during a protest against the government of President Michel Martelly, near the National Palace in Port-au-Prince, on November 25, 2014.

PORT-AU-PRINCE - Thousands of anti-government protesters in Haiti called Tuesday for the resignation of President Michel Martelly, whom they accused of trying to reinstall a dictatorship.

Opposition politicians called for the protests, which took place in several neighborhood of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince.

The protests were held amid worries that Martelly could try to rule by decree when parliament expires in January following three years of election delays.

Demonstrators carried signs calling for democratic elections and a new government, and demanded the release of jailed opposition activists.

"We came to say no to any attempt to rehabilitate a dictatorship in Haiti that refuses to hold elections," said protester Hugo Alfred.

Politicians and former members of parliament joined the demonstration, also calling for Martelly to step down.

The protests were dispersed before demonstrators reached the national palace, where police had erected barricades.

Organizers said at least two people were arrested, but no injuries were reported.

Haitians were supposed to go to the polls on October 26 to elect 20 senators, 102 deputies and municipal officials, but the National Assembly did not pass an electoral law in time because of a political impasse.

The mandate of the parliament and senate is set to expire on January 12 and if elections are not held, Martelly could take over amid a political vacuum.

The president has vowed to call elections early next year if the impasse is not resolved.

The UN special envoy for Haiti Sandra Honore on Monday urged the government to respect the right to peaceful protests, as officials banned demonstrators from carrying firearms.

Recent talks initiated by the government aimed at resolving the crisis before the end of the year were boycotted by opposition parties.

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