Thousands protest in Armenia after president re-elected

Wed Feb 20, 2013 11:38am EST
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By Hasmik Mkrtchyan

YEREVAN (Reuters) - About 5,000 flag-waving protesters rallied on Wednesday against Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan's re-election, saying his victory was tainted by fraud.

Supporters of Sarksyan's second-placed rival Raffi Hovannisian filled Freedom Square in the center of the capital Yerevan to condemn what they said were uncounted ballots and other violations.

"Are you ready to stay here long?" Hovannisian asked the crowd. "Are you ready to stay here until victory? I'm ready."

"The constitution should win over fraud," he said, raising a first above his head after kneeling to kiss the national flag.

Many of Hovannisian's supporters vowed to continue their protests until Sarksyan quits, but the crowd dispersed quietly after three hours and there was no violence.

Some protesters said they would gather again in the square on Thursday.

Hovannisian did not make clear whether he would formally challenge the result of Monday's election, which showed Sarksyan won 58.6 percent of votes, far ahead of Hovannisian, a U.S.-born former foreign minister, on nearly 37 percent.

International observers found an improvement in the conduct of the election compared to the last presidential vote in 2008 but said the vote lacked real competition.   Continued...

Supporters of presidential candidate Raffi Hovannisian protest in Yerevan February 19, 2013. REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili