[JURIST] Armenia President Robert Kocharian [official website] declared a state of emergency Saturday, as police forced approximately 15,000 demonstrators to disperse from the capital city of Yerevan. The protests are the result of the contested February 19 presidential election in which Prime Minister Serzh Sarksyan [official profile], a Kocharian ally, was declared the winner [BBC report]. Supporters of the opposition candidate and former president, Levon Ter-Petrosian [official website], have alleged fraud, however, and have held daily rallies [IHT report] since the election in order to force a new vote. The rallies drew tens of thousands of people to the city's square each day. Ter-Petrosian petitioned the Constitutional Court [official website] Friday in order to overturn the election results. On Saturday, Ter-Petrosian was not allowed to leave his house, but he told reporters that he was not under formal house arrest.
The state of emergency is set to be in place until March 20. It imposes bans on all rallies and protests while also placing restrictions on the media. The declaration gives police the power to restrict movement, and to search private and public vehicles. AP has more.