- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 March 7, 2003 

Monday Mass: Demirchyan and Kocharyan crowds hold Yerevan captive in gridlock

In its first mass gathering since the February 19 elections, the camp of President Robert Kocharyan showed its might today with a demonstration twice or more larger than any staged by the Opposition.

Stepan Demirchyan and his supporters gathered at Republic Square at the same time as the pro-Kocharyan rally was staged at the Institute of Manuscripts. And while the Opposition rally snugly filled Republic Square, the crowd spilling over from the Institute stretched to Opera Square and created gridlock in the city center's afternoon traffic.

Demirchyan has strong political strength in the regions and those attending his rallies have tended to reflect the dress and appearance of rural Armenia. In contrast, today's Kocharyan crowd was clearly more urban.

Today's demonstration was organized by the Dashnakstutyun, Kocharyan's most loyal supporters and one of the oldest political parties in Armenia. Their efficiency at organizing a rally could be seen in the number of banners and flags and by the presence of a giant video monitor displaying the speakers' podium several hundred meters away.

"We need such a victory to prove to all those who blame us for falsification that our victory is obvious," Kocharyan told his crowd. "The Opposition made attempts to destabilize the country and create in-fighting."

The President then listed significant eras of Independent Armenia's history as examples of how unstable political climate created difficulties for the country, including: the Karabakh War (1991-94), the second-term resignation of President Levon Ter-Petrosyan (1998) and the Parliament assassinations of 1999.

"Only the war was an excuse for the hardship of the country," Kocharyan said. "The others were artificial attempts to destabilize the situation of the country."

The President said the country still has problems, but appealed to the crowd for a chance to solve them by putting him in charge for a second term.

The speech of about 15 to 20 minutes began on the theme of stability and ended with the same idea.

"The only aim of our programs is to make people's lives better," the President concluded.

Vahan Hovhanissyan one of the leaders of the Dashnak executive council told the crowd that, under Kocharyan, the country would be "cleaned" of those who are trying to avoid criminal prosecution by supporting Demirchyan.

"We are here to prove to the world that Robert Kocharyan does not need falsification to be elected," Hovhanissyan said. "Here are people from those 700,000 who voted for him. We came here of our own will."

Some members in the crowd, however, told ArmeniaNow that their participation was not exactly voluntary.

Students from the Agriculture Academy, who normally have lectures on Monday afternoon, said they were coerced to attend the rally by a professor who said it would be "bad for them" if they didn't go.

And some factory workers, including those from Grand Sun Lamp and Grand Candy said they were put on buses to the rally without being told of their destination.

Some factory workers said their employee identification cards were taken as they were placed on buses with a promise to get them back after returning from the rally. And there were reports of employees being told: "If you don't go to the rally, don't come to work tomorrow".

One representative from the Municipality of Echmiadzin says he was ordered to take his employees to the rally. The man said he was worried what might happen to him, because of the group of 60 for whom he was held accountable, only five still remained at rally time.

(ArmeniaNow reporters Zhanna Alexanyan, Suren Deheryan, Marianna Grigoryan, Vahan Ishkhanyan and Gayane Mkrtchyan contributed to this report.)


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  Head of State
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Head of State

President Robert Kocharyan was elected to a second term.



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