Supporters of presidential candidate Raffi Hovannisian
protest in Yerevan, Armenia. REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili
Thousands of people have protested in Armenia's capital
Yerevan against the re-election of President Serzh Sarksyan,
asserting that an opposition party leader was the real winner.
International monitors said Monday's vote was an improvement
on recent elections in Armenia but there was little
competition as some of Sarksyan's most prominent rivals did
not run, saying the result was likely to be skewed to deliver
The rally in Yerevan's Freedom Square was peaceful and there
were no protests in other cities in the ex-Soviet republic.
But analysts are concerned about instability in a region that
is a key transit route for Caspian gas and oil deliveries to
Backers of Sarksyan's second-placed rival Raffi Hovannisian
chanted "Raffi! Raffi!" and "Armenia! Armenia" at the rally,
alleging that the vote was rigged in favour of the Sarksyan.
"We should carry on our fight calmly and according to the
constitution. Our democratic movement will not stop and we
will achieve victory," Hovannisian told the crowd, raising a
clenched fist over his head.
"Welcome Armenia! You are the people, you have chosen your
servant," U.S.-born Hovannisian, accompanied by his wife and
son, said to the protesters, who were waving Armenian flags.
Hovannisian told protesters that the president, at a meeting
on Thursday, rejected his demand for a rerun of the vote.
Official results showed Sarksyan winning 58.6 percent of the
votes, compared to nearly 37 percent for Hovannisian.
Hovannisian said he would start touring cities and villages
where he polled ahead of Sarksyan in the election, before
staging another protest rally in the same square on Sunday.
"There is a 'tradition' in post-Soviet countries that those
who scored second or third positions always question results
of elections, no matter what," said analyst Sergei Minasyan.
"I think Raffi Hovannisian is aiming for a long march that
would somehow unite the opposition to keep up the pressure
and maybe benefit from it in the approaching elections for
local governments, including for the Yerevan mayor."
The disputed result of the 2008 presidential election
triggered violent unrest in which 10 people were killed.
Armenia, a South Caucasus country of 3.2 million that has a
collective security deal with Russia, is also locked in
dispute with neighbour Azerbaijan over the enclave of
About 30,000 people were killed in a 1990s war between the
neighbours over Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian-majority
enclave inside Azerbaijan, which Armenian-backed rebels
wrested from Azeri troops.