Armenia’s Administrative Court has rejected an opposition lawsuit challenging the legality of Yerevan Mayor Taron Markarian’s controversial decision to sharply raise the cost of public transport.
The more than 50 percent increase in bus and minibus fares sparked street protests and was suspended just one week after being ordered by Markarian in early July.
The Barev Yerevan opposition bloc linked to Raffi Hovannisian’s Zharangutyun party afterwards asked the Administrative Court to declare the unpopular measure illegal. The bloc represented in the municipal assembly claimed that the mayor had no right to raise fares all over the city because tariff hikes were requested by transport firms operating less than half of the municipal bus, minibus and trolleybus routes.
Barev Yerevan also argued that the decision regarding the fares began to be enforced several days before being publicized. This, it said, constitutes a serious violation of Armenian law.
The Administrative Court rejected these arguments, however, saying that the municipal administration did not break any laws. Barev Yerevan representatives sitting on the city’s Council of Elders condemned the ruling on Wednesday and said they will take their case to the Court of Appeals.
One of them, Stepan Safarian, accused the Administrative Court of acting on government orders. “This verdict testifies to one thing: justice in Armenia is being killed,” he charged at a news conference.
Markarian set up last month an hoc commission tasked with reviewing the existing fares and deciding whether they should be raised. Earlier in September, more than 60 private firms operating bus and minibus routes in the capital demanded a renewed fare hike in a joint appeal to the Mayor’s Office. The latter did not rule out such possibility.
Leaders of mostly young civic activists whose angry demonstrations forced Markarian to “suspend” his controversial decision have pledged to launch a new campaign of protests if the municipal authorities again raise the fares.