Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 179

Armenian pro-opposition demonstrators last night attempted to force their way into the parliament building, which is also the seat of the Central Election Commission (CEC). The CEC is held responsible by the opposition for reported fraud in the September 22 presidential election. Security forces fired, killing at least one and injuring at least 20 protesters. Parliament chairman Babken Ararktsian, who also heads President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s electoral campaign staff, was beaten during the melee. The president, shown on state television while meeting with the heads of "power ministries" and commanders of security forces, accused the opposition of mounting a coup d’etat and decreed a ban on rallies and demonstrations. The opposition has called another mass rally today. (AP, Reuter, NTV, September 25 and 26. See Perspective section below)

Last night’s violence capped a third consecutive day in which more than 100,000 people had demonstrated in central Yerevan to protest against Ter-Petrosian’s declaration of victory. The Internal Affairs and Defense ministries — whose heads are political supporters of Ter-Petrosian — had announced that they would uphold public order. They restricted access to Yerevan from the countryside to prevent opposition supporters from entering, and deployed troop cordons around government buildings and the television station.

The government-controlled CEC’s latest returns showed Ter-Petrosian winning by 52 percent against the 41 percent credited to united opposition candidate Vazgen Manukian — a narrower margin than the previously reported return of 58 percent to 37 percent. Two minor candidates received the balance of the votes. Opposition representatives offered evidence of mass-scale fraud, claimed a country-wide return of close to 60 percent for Manukian, and demanded recounts or repeat voting in many districts. Denied a CEC hearing and barred from state television and radio, the opposition National Accord bloc and Manukian issued statements describing Manukian as the legitimate president-elect. They also accused the authorities of carrying out a coup d’etat through falsification of the returns and vowed to resist it through mass protests. (Noyan-Tapan, Western agencies, September 24 and 25)

Ter-Petrosian needs a return of 50 percent plus one vote to win reelection in the first round. A return of less than 50 percent would force him into a runoff with Manukian, which the opposition is confident of winning. Before election day the president and the opposition had accused each other of planning to secure victory through fraud or force. The opposition vowed to avoid a repetition of the cheating that marked last year’s parliamentary election, which international monitors also criticized for being rigged by the authorities. In the interval between the two elections the opposition was virtually blocked from state television and also faced obstacles in distributing its press outside Yerevan.

International Monitors Criticize Authorities’ Performance.