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armenialiberty: Thousands March In Yerevan As Opposition Pleads For International Support

By Emil Danielyan

Thousands of people jeered and booed the Russian embassy and applauded outside Western diplomatic missions in Yerevan as the Armenian opposition pleaded with the international community to help it reverse alleged electoral fraud.

Supporters of defeated presidential candidate Stepan Demirchian again marched through the city center to protest against the official results of this week’s election which they believe was falsified in favor of incumbent President Robert Kocharian. In a petition issued at the rally, more than a dozen opposition parties supporting Demirchian praised Western powers for their strong criticism of the two-round vote and sought their assistance in “the restoration of the constitutional order in Armenia.”

The statement accused the current authorities of reneging on their international obligations on political reform. “The international community, too, has obligations to foster the protection of human rights and the establishment of democracy in Armenia,” it said.

Addressing the protesters, Demirchian again refused to accept his defeat, deriding the official figures that show him suffering a crushing defeat in Wednesday’s run-off vote. “If the elections had been fair, I would have congratulated the winner first,” he said. “But I can’t accept fraud.”

The protesters then marched towards some of the Western embassies in the capital to express their appreciation of Western observers’ conclusion that the election was not democratic. They booed and whistled angrily as they walked past the Russian embassy, protesting a Russian-led CIS monitoring mission’s description of the polls as free and fair. Many also resented the fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin has already congratulated Kocharian on his landslide victory.

The crowd burst into rapturous applause as it approached the French embassy located on the same street. “The citizens of Armenia and opposition parties express their gratitude to the government of France for making an objective and impartial assessment of the presidential elections,” one of the organizers of the march, Hanrapetutyun party leader Albert Bazeyan, declared through a megaphone. “Long live France,” screamed another opposition leader, Arshak Sadoyan.

The nearby Italian mission also got an enthusiastic welcome from the opposition supporters.

Demirchian, who did not take part in the march, and his opposition allies said they will continue their campaign of street protest until the authorities agree to scrap the elections and call new ones. They said they will continue to stick to “constitutional” methods of political struggle. “We should demonstrate to the outside world that we are civilized people who know how to fight for their rights,” Demirchian said.

“You will not digest the fraud; we will not leave you alone,” Hanrapetutyun’s Aram Sarkisian warned the authorities.

The opposition allegations were shrugged off by Kocharian’s campaign chief Serzh Sarkisian earlier in the day. Sarkisian said the Demirchian campaign has not yet filed a single lawsuit on any instance of alleged vote rigging. But the opposition candidate’s top campaign aides said they will do so after the Central Election Commission and its territorial divisions examine their numerous complaints. They complained that state prosecutors refuse to investigate specific opposition reports of ballot box stuffing and other irregularities.

In addition, Demirchian on Friday reaffirmed his intention to appeal to the Constitutional Court.

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