Thousands of protesters in Haiti call for President Michel Martelly to step down

Demonstrators march during an anti-government protest in Port-au-Prince on June 5, 2014.

Thousands of Haitians took to the streets of the capital Port-au-Prince Thursday to demand that President Michel Martelly step down and new elections be held.

Protesters brandished signs calling on Canada, France and the United States to "help Haitians get rid of the leaders in power."

Opposition chiefs marched at the front of the demonstration down several streets of the capital before police dispersed the crowd using teargas.

"We want elections but we are asking that President Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe first step down. The people do not trust these leaders to organize honest elections," said Turneb Delpe, a former senator.

Legislative elections for around 100 members of the Chamber of Deputies, 20 senators and municipal leaders are set to take place on October 26 after multiple delays.

But the various political parties are divided over the makeup of the electoral body, seen as subservient to the executive branch.

And the main opposition parties have rejected the deal setting up the polls, brokered by the first Haitian cardinal in the Catholic Church, Chibly Langlois.

Martelly and a dozen senators met for two days to try to defuse the crisis but they failed to reach agreement on potential new leaders at the Provisional Electoral Council.

cre/oh/jm