Activists campaigning against the rise in electricity tariffs in Armenia say they will not be seeking to occupy the central spot in Yerevan’s main Republic Square when they gather for a fresh rally next week.
According to RiseUp Armenia civic group coordinator Andrias Ghukasian, they have reached a compromise on the matter with the municipal authorities after the police said they could not ensure the safety of the rally participants as well as normal traffic in the square.
Therefore, RiseUp Armenia says on August 11 it will gather in the area adjacent to the square where scores of activists were camped for five days late last month after being prevented by the police from holding a sit-in in the central part of the square.
But members of the group, who claim the police actions restricted their freedoms of movement and assembly, say as a matter of principle they will still attempt to occupy the central spot of Republic Square in the future.
RiseUp Armenia emerged out of the street protests against electricity price hikes that were held in Yerevan earlier this summer and were popularly referred to as ‘Electric Yerevan’.
The pressure group wants the authorities to reverse their decision on raising electricity prices by some 16 percent from August 1 even despite the government subsidy that was put in place for the hike. Activists believe this subsidy that the government says will be paid from the proceeds received through the sale to a private American company of the Vorotan Hydro Cascade, one of the country’s largest power-generating facilities, is still “taxpayer money”.
Earlier this week, RiseUp Armenia formally submitted a letter to the Public Services Regulatory Commission (PSRC) demanding that the members of the regulatory body that approved the power price hike step down. But activists say they do not expect any response from the tariff-setting commission.
“We have absolutely no desire to enter into polemics with different government agencies,” member of the movement David Hovannisian says.
At the rally next Tuesday RiseUp Armenia plans to present explanations and clarifications in connection with its demands. “It is the resignation of the members of the PSRC, the nationalization of the Electric Networks of Armenia CJSC, and bringing those responsible for the crisis in the energy sector to account by law,” Ghukasian says.
RiseUp Armenia members do not exclude that the list of their demands will be extended after the rally. But before that they say they are ready to cooperate with other movements, including those that fight against the controversial constitutional reform initiated by the current administration and believed by some leading opposition parties to be an attempt of the incumbent president Serzh Sarkisian to stay in power after his second and final term in office ends in 2018.
“Our movement has repeatedly stated that it will join any demand – be it political or non-political – that is raised by the people,” Hovannisian stressed.