“Fifty-fifty.” This is how the head of a state regulatory body, Robert Nazarian, described the likelihood of a sharp increase in the price of natural gas in Armenia, reports “Haykakan Zhamanak.” The paper says the comments suggest that the authorities are still undecided about raising the key utility fees. “On the one hand, the prime minister has announced that they will go up. On the other, rumors are circulating that Kocharian will state at the last minute that the tariffs will not rise thanks to himself. And as long as the picture is not cleared up, Nazarian will naturally refrain from saying something definite.”
“Ayb-Fe” also points to the contradictory statements by various Armenian officials. Parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian, for example, said recently that the governing coalition has not yet given its go-ahead to the planned tariff rise. However, other officials like Nazarian indicate that the unpopular measures are needed. “Don’t they meet each other?” the paper wonders.
“Hayots Ashkhar” reports that the People’s Deputy group of non-partisan lawmakers is strongly opposed to the price hikes. It quotes the deputy head of the group, Vahram Baghdasarian, as saying that they are at odds with the government’s stated efforts to reduce poverty. “Instead of raising electricity fees, we should cut and root out disproportionate losses [in power distribution],” he says. The same is true for other basic utilities, according to Baghdasarian.
In an interview with “Aravot,” People’s Deputy leader Karen Karapetian appears to deny rumors that some parliament deputies affiliated with the Republican Party may soon defect to his group. Karapetian says the pro-establishment group does not aspire to ministerial positions and rebukes the three coalition parties for their ongoing bargaining over senior government jobs. He adds without naming names that most of those parties will not use those posts to the benefit of the country.
Looking back at Friday’s opposition rally in Yerevan, “Ayb-Fe” says the number of people who attended it was big enough. At least bigger than some opposition leaders expected. All opposition speakers except Aram Sarkisian were rather cautious in their statements. “It was clear that the other oppositionists already have something to lose, including the very high salary of a parliament deputy,” the paper says. While Sarkisian and other leaders of his Hanrapetutyun party spoke of the need for a quick regime change, Stepan Demirchian and other representatives of his People’s Party were more preoccupied with their proposed amendments to the Armenian law on referendum. Sarkisian and Demirchian “promised the people two completely different things.”