Armenian opposition presses ahead in campaign to force president out

Associated Press Worldstream
April 21, 2004 Wednesday 2:05 PM Eastern Time

Armenian opposition presses ahead in campaign to force president out

YEREVAN, Armenia

Armenian opposition parties pushed forward in their campaign against
President Robert Kocharian, holding a protest rally that attracted an
estimated 10,000 people to the center of the capital.

The opposition has been holding rallies every few days to press its
grievances, including calls for Kocharian’s resignation.

Kocharian won a second term in presidential elections a year ago that
sparked mass protests, including nearly daily demonstrations between
the first round and the runoff.

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

Lingering anger over the alleged election fraud is aggravated by
Armenia’s economic struggles. Once one of the most industrialized
regions of the Soviet Union, its economy collapsed after the Soviet
breakup and recovery efforts have been hampered by the closure of its
borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan.

“Armenia would be a country like Latvia, if it weren’t led by Robert
Kocharian,” said Shavarsh Kocharian of the opposition Justice Party,
referring to one of the former Soviet Baltic states that are about to
join the European Union.

Police forcefully broke up a protest rally on April 13, detaining
more than 100 people, reportedly causing injuries and raising

“Before a dialogue can begin, both sides must be legitimate and
Robert Kocharian showed on April 13 that he is outside the law,”
Justice Party leader Stepan Demirchian told the rally.