Karapetian said that municipal authorities will dismantle only about 200 kiosks in the coming weeks as part of his highly controversial efforts to regulate street trade in the Armenian capital.
“When we finish removing them we will announce our next step,” he told the municipal council dominated by his loyalists.
According to the mayor’s office, some 900 small shops have been shut down since the beginning of the year. The office claims that they either lacked valid government licenses or were located on “central streets” and “interfered with the normal work of the city.”
Armenia -- Yerevan Mayor Karen Karapetian at a press conference, Yerevan, 21 June, 2011
The process has been accompanied by street protests and even resistance by some of their owners backed by Armenia’s leading opposition forces and the state human rights ombudsman, Karen Andreasian. Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian also expressed concern in July before Karapetian promised that the kiosks will not be closed en masse.
Deputy Mayor Taron Markarian repeated these assurances during hearings on the issue held in the Armenian parliament last week.
While pledging to scale back the kiosk closures for now, Karapetian again dismissed the argument that scores of people are losing their sole source of income. “Generally, there are no poor kiosk owners on central streets because a poor person could not have opened a kiosk in the city center,” he told the Yerevan assembly.
The remarks were condemned by dozens of mostly middle-aged and elderly kiosk owners who demonstrated outside the municipality. “Let them come and see how rich I am,” scoffed one man.
“They are rich, not we,” said another protester. “You can’t become rich by selling newspapers.”