The Armenian opposition has staged a series of demonstrations in Yeveran in the days after the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) confirmed Serzh Sargsyan's re-election as president. Runner up Raffi Hovhannisyan claims that Armenia's February 18 elections were rigged, and says that the result should be overturned.
Several smaller demonstrations have taken place since several thousand people turned out to support Hovhannisyan in Yerevan's central Liberty Square on February 20. More rallies are planned for the first week in March.
The final election result released by the CEC on February 25 gives Sargsyan 58.64% of the vote, meaning he takes the presidency in the first round of the election. Hovhannisyan was in second place on 36.75%, with no other candidate taking more than 3% of the vote.
However, Hovhannisyan claims that results at around half of the polling stations monitored by his party were different from those reported by the CEC. His supporters say they observed violations including including ballot stuffing and the removal of stamps from voters' passports.
At the February 28 demonstration, in addition to members of Hovhannisyan's Heritage Party, the several leaders of the ARF-Dashnaktsutyun Party, as well as presidential candidate Andrias Ghukasian also took part.
As yet, ARF-Dashnaktsutyun is the only other major opposition group to have put its weight behind Hovhannisyan's protests, although the leader of the Armenian National Congress (ANC), independent Armenia's first president Levon Ter-Petrossian, has said that he considers the vote was rigged.
The protests come after a relatively lacklustre campaign period. With both the ANC and the Prosperous Armenia Party declining to put forward candidates, Sargsyan's victory seemed a foregone conclusion, and the main event of the pre-election period was the assassination attempt on presidential candidate Paruyr Hayrikyan.
The protests have not yet gained the momentum that was seen after the February 2008 elections, which was followed by mass rallies in support of Ter-Petrossian, who was beaten into second place by Sargsyan. The protests were violently put down by Armenia's security forces resulting in 10 deaths, and a month-long state of emergency was imposed.