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Armenian president sworn in amid protests

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April 9, 2013 03:16 PM EST | AP

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YEREVAN, Armenia — Several thousand protesters demonstrated near the Armenian presidential palace on Tuesday after Serge Sarkisian was sworn in for a second term.

Sarkisian easily won February's election with nearly 59 percent of the vote. But American-born runner-up Raffi Hovanessian, who won 37 percent of the vote, has called the election rigged, went on a hunger strike, and led protests calling for Sarkisian to step down.

About 3,000 demonstrators gathered in the evening on the avenue leading to the presidential residence, but were blocked by a police cordon. Sporadic small clashes occurred and police told demonstrators to disperse.

After some arguments, demonstrators left the area and the street was reopened about 11 p.m.

There were no reports of serious injury, but a top official of Hovanessian's party, Armen Martirosian, was seen being taken away with a bleeding nose. It was not clear how the injury occurred.

Observers from the parliamentary assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said that although democratic freedoms were generally respected in the election, it lacked genuine competition due to abuses such as pressure on public employees to take part in campaign events.