More Than 10,000 Protest in Armenia

More Than 10,000 Protest in Armenia

By AVET DEMOURIAN
.c The Associated Press

YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) – More than 10,000 protested Friday in the heart
of the Armenian capital to demand the resignation of President Robert
Kocharian, defying a ban on the rally.

Two opposition parties that organized the peaceful protest accuse
Kocharian of rigging last year’s elections, corruption, systematic
human rights abuses and mismanagement of the economy.

Stepan Demirchian, a leader of the Justice Party, said the opposition
parties would not negotiate with the president until parliament
accepts their demand that a bill be submitted calling for a referendum
on the current leadership.

“This can be a good opportunity for the president to resign in a
civilized way,” Demirchian said.

After a smaller opposition rally on Monday, officials banned the
Friday gathering.

But one television report said police were instructed not to try to
disperse the demonstration unless it became disorderly, and Friday
police did not interfere with the rally.

Kocharian won a second term a year ago in elections that sparked mass
protests, including near-daily demonstrations between the first round
of voting in February 2003 and a runoff in early March.

Opposition groups alleged widespread violations in both rounds of the
election, which was followed by a parliamentary ballot won
overwhelmingly by the pro-government party.

In April, Armenia’s Constitutional Court confirmed the results of the
vote but suggested a referendum be held within a year to gauge public
confidence in the nation’s leaders.

04/09/04 16:09 EDT

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