By Emil Danielyan
Opposition candidate Stepan Demirchian refused Thursday to recognize his defeat in the presidential run-off in front of thousands of supporters who rallied in Yerevan to denounce President Robert Kocharian’s controversial reelection and demand a re-run of the vote.
Demirchian and other opposition leaders who called the protest warned that the authorities should invalidate the official vote results or face a campaign of street protests. In a joint statement, 15 opposition parties grouped around the candidate accused Kocharian of rigging the ballot and “usurping power.”
“Those published results have nothing to do with the real choice made by the people and can not be accepted by me,” Demirchian declared in his first post-election speech. “It’s a Pyrrhic victory. In fact, it’s not a victory at all. The other candidate has not won, because you can’t defeat your own people.”
“Mr. Kocharian, your victory sucks,” thundered Aram Sarkisian, the outspoken leader of the Hanrapetutyun party. “With our unity and consolidation, we will achieve the resignation of the current authorities in two or three days.”
The official preliminary results of the election show Kocharian winning about 67.5 percent of the vote. Demirchian, got only 32.5 percent. The Demirchian campaign alleged widespread fraud before and after the closure of polls Wednesday.
“When two thousand people decide for two million people, it’s not an election,” said another opposition leader, Aram Karapetian.
The opposition statement demanded that the Central Election Commission scrap the run-off. Its signatories urged the crowd to again gather in the same place on Friday, indicating their intention to achieve their goals primarily through anti-government demonstrations. Demirchian stressed that the opposition will fight for its cause “only within the constitutional framework,” but did not elaborate.
“We will not allow the establishment of a dictatorship in Armenia,” he said.
Demirchian, who smiled and waved to the crowd as it chanted his name, thanked his supporters for “fighting for justice in an atmosphere of terror.” He also sought to justify his participation in the second round, saying that he hoped that the authorities will ensure “more or less bearable elections.”
Artashes Geghamian, the opposition candidate who came in third in the first round, alleged that the vote was too fraudulent to be deemed legitimate and urged Demirchian to quit the race. Geghamian last week appealed the first-round election results at the Constitutional Court. Demirchian said he will “most probably” follow suit.