The young organizers of protests in Yerevan against a controversial rise in electricity prices vowed to continue their campaign on Tuesday one day after being forced to vacate a street leading to President Serzh Sarkisian’s headquarters.
They said they could resume unspecified “decisive actions” after rallying supporters in the city’s Liberty Square on Thursday.
“Rest assured that our ‘One Step Forward’ drive has not stopped. We will take one step forward,” said one of the youth activists, Davit Sanasarian.
He referred to the protesters’ intention to advance further towards the presidential palace on Monday evening. Riot police dispersed them and unblocked Marshal Bagramian Avenue several hours before that action.
The protest leaders were detained and set free by the police before gathering at Liberty Square late on Monday. Sanasarian went on a hunger strike there in an effort to get more Armenians to join the campaign for an official annulment of the more than 17 percent increase in energy tariffs.
Attendance at the Marshal Bagramian Avenue protests declined dramatically after President Sarkisian effectively suspended the unpopular price hike on June 27.
Sanasarian, who will turn 31 later this month, is a senior member of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party represented in Armenia’s parliament. He has made clear that he is taking part in the protests in his personal capacity.
Zharangutyun’s deputy chairman, Armen Martirosian, on Tuesday voiced skepticism at the radical activists’ ability to reinvigorate the “Electric Yerevan” movement. He criticized them for avoiding political demands such as regime change throughout the campaign.
“In essence, they turned a purely political movement into one with a narrow socioeconomic focus, something which did not go down well with citizens,” Martirosian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). This is why, he claimed, the protests ran out of steam after the concession made by Sarkisian.
By contrast, a senior lawmaker from the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) praised the seemingly apolitical character of the protests. Hovannes Sahakian insisted that the youth-dominated movement has essentially achieved its objective, arguing that Armenians will not pay more for electricity for the time being.
“I’m sure that most people don’t understand what [the protest leaders] are demanding now,” said Sahakian.