Armenians Rally to Protest Leader
More than 50,000 people rallied in the Armenian capital Friday demanding that President Levon Ter-Petrosyan resign and new parliamentary elections be held.
The rally signaled impatience with the leaders who brought Armenians to independence but failed to solve food and fuel shortages.
Armenia is suffering a hard winter. Dozens of factories have closed for lack of fuel, putting thousands out of work. Most homes have electricity less than two hours a day. Prices are soaring.
The opposition wants to limit presidential powers, strengthen Parliament and negotiate an end to the costly war with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian region surrounded by Azerbaijani territory.
Paruir Aurikian, leader of the opposition Union of National Self-Determination, told the rally that Ter-Petrosyan had led this country of 3.4 million people to economic ruin and unnecessary war.
About 5,000 protesters later marched through snow-covered streets to the presidential residence, chanting, “Levon, get out!”
Armenia, a former Soviet republic, became independent in 1991. Ter-Petrosyan, a former dissident, was elected in a landslide vote that year and has kept a relatively strong hold on power.
Some Russian news reports put the number of demonstrators at 100,000 to 300,000, but police and local journalists called that an exaggeration.