Armenia Presidential Runner-Up Holds Rally to Challenge Vote

The runner-up in this week’s Armenian presidential election held a rally to dispute the results and demand the winner, incumbent Serzh Sargsyan, concedes defeat.

Raffi Hovhannisyan, who garnered 37 percent of the Feb. 18 vote to Sargsyan’s 59 percent, was joined today by about 10,000 people at Liberty Square in the capital, Yerevan. The protesters plan to remain there all night to await a rally by Sargsyan and his supporters tomorrow.

Sargsyan is ready to meet Hovhannisyan at any time to clarify his “incomprehensible” statements, his spokesman, Armen Arzumanyan, told the website.

Sargsyan’s victory for a second term solidifies his standing after his Republican Party won a parliamentary ballot last year in the landlocked country that borders Iran and Turkey and fought a war with neighbor Azerbaijan over a disputed region two decades ago. Presidential elections in 2008 triggered bloody scenes as 10 people died amid clashes between opposition protesters and police.

Armenia’s dram, which has lost 4.2 percent against the dollar over the last year, lost 0.1 percent to 406.8892, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

‘People’s Victory’

While observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe noted an improvement in the vote’s conduct, Hovhannisyan said yesterday that the results don’t “reflect the will of the people.”

Hovhannisyan, whose Heritage Party won 5.8 percent of votes in parliamentary elections last May, has accused the Central Electoral Commission of making a “false calculation.” He wants the president to recognize the “people’s victory” and start negotiations with him.

In an e-mailed statement today, Heritage said it’s filed reports detailing more than a hundred violations and complained about a recount of ballots initiated without notification.

Hovhannisyan’s official showing was better than expected, according to Alexander Iskandaryan, director of the Caucasus Institute. That support reflects anti-Sargsyan sentiment, he told reporters today.

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