Armenia lifts state of emergency

By bne IntelliNews March 20, 2008

bne -

Armenia has lifted the state of emergency that has been in place in the capital Yerevan since the beginning of March.

Incumbent President Robert Kocharian declared a 20-day state of emergency in response to mass rallies and protests over the result of the February 20 presidential election. This saw Kocharian's favoured successor, Prime Minister Serge Sarkisian, receive 52.9% of the vote, thus securing him a first-round victory.

Levon Ter-Petrosian, Armenia's first post-Soviet president, received 21.5% of the vote, while Artur Baghdasarian, former speaker in the Armenian parliament, received 16.6%. Ter-Petrosian condemned the election process as rigged even before the results were declared. In the ensuing chaos, eight people were killed and over 200 wounded before the 20-day state of emergency was declared on March 1.

On March 8, the Constitutional Court rejected two legal actions brought by the opposition challenging the results of the election, and ruled the results announced by the central Electoral Commission should be upheld.

On 18 March, Kocharian said he had no plans to extend the state of emergency beyond the 20-day period.

Since March 1, more than 100 people have been arrested. They include Ter-Petrosian's campaign chief, Alexander Arzumanyan, and Ararat Zurabyan, one of the leaders of the Armenian National Movement, which had backed Ter-Petrosian.

Sarkisian said on Wednesday, March 19, that he wouldn't rule out an amnesty for those arrested for organising and participating in the unrest. However, earlier in the week the Armenian parliament voted in favour of a new law to tighten restrictions on rallies, making it more difficult for similar mass actions to take place in future. Members of parliament voted by a majority of 90 to six in favour of the changes, which were aimed at preventing a resumption of violence between protesters and police after the state of emergency comes to an end.

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