Latest anti-government rally draws more than 10,000 in Armenia

Agence France Presse
April 21, 2004 Wednesday 8:06 AM Eastern Time

Latest anti-government rally draws more than 10,000 in Armenia

YEREVAN, April 21

More than 10,000 demonstrators poured onto the rainy streets of
Armenia’s capital Wednesday, in the latest of a wave of protests
demanding the resignation of President Robert Kocharian.

“Kocharian’s resignation is necessary in order to organize a new
presidential election, this one fair,” one of the leaders of the
opposition Justice party, Chavarch Kocharian, told between 10,000 and
12,000 protestors.

A new election, in turn, “will enable the organization of fundamental
changes and true development in the country,” said Kocharian, who is
no relation to the Armenian leader.

Wednesday’s demonstration in Yerevan’s central Freedom Square was the
latest in a string of protests organized this month by opposition
parties in Armenia, a nation of three million people in the Caucasus

The Armenian opposition says that Kocharian rigged a run-off
presidential vote in March 2003 to secure a second term in office and
is demanding that he either organize a national referendum of
confidence in his rule or step down.

On April 13, the police broke up an anti-government demonstration in
the capital Yerevan using water cannon and reportedly injuring dozens
of protestors.

“After April 13 we are living in a new political situation, in a
police state where terror reigns,” Aram Sarkissian, the leader of the
Democratic Party, told Wednesday’s gathering.

The protests in Armenia, the world’s first state to adopt
Christianity, have drawn comparisons with last year’s “rose
revolution” that ousted the leadership in neighbouring Georgia.

But despite the widespread discontent in Armenia over low living
standards, analysts say Kocharian is too strong, and the opposition
too weak, for the Georgian scenario to be repeated in Armenia.