“168 Zham” is impressed with Wednesday’s demonstration in Yerevan against a further increase in the electricity prices, saying that it marked “the start of an important process” in Armenia. The paper points out that the protest was organized by civic organizations, rather than opposition parties. “As a rule, the opposite has been the case in Armenia,” it says. “Political forces have been the main generators of major processes, and the civil society has had to join them, basically accepting their rules of the game.” The paper says Wednesday’s protest is the result of a “vacuum” in the Armenian political arena which the mainstream opposition is currently unable to fill.
“Zhoghovurd” emphasizes the importance of the fact that most of the several thousand participants of the Yerevan rally were young people. “Of course, one could see some politicians and party activists there,” the paper says. “But they all were rank-and-file participants. The energizing power contained by the march will certainly give the Armenian authorities food for thought.” It says the authorities will now think twice before raising the electricity tariff at the behest of the Russian-owned Electricity Networks of Armenia (ENA) company.
Citing unnamed reliable sources, “Haykakan Zhamanak” says the price hike will be much more modest than what was asked by the ENA management. The paper says the Public Services Regulatory Commission (PSRC) will hold public discussions of the issue in order to imitate a serious consideration of the unpopular measure. It says the authorities are confident that they will easily sell a smaller-than-expected price rise to the public.
“Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” claims that the authorities are now trying to show the Russian government that they are sparing no effort to protect the interests of the ENA’s Russian parent company, the RAO Unified Energy Systems (UES). “Secondly, the authorities realize that if the protests are not nipped in the bud they will take on an anti-Russian character and the Kremlin will certainly not praise Serzh Sarkisian for that,” speculates the paper. “And thirdly, the authorities realize that if the campaign gains momentum and Russian companies get in serious trouble [in Armenia,] they will decide to reveal how they got hold of their subsidiaries, how much they paid in bribes and to which Armenian officials.”