YEREVAN—Riot police clashed with youth activists and detained several of them on Tuesday amid continuing protests against a more than 50 percent surge in the price of public transport in Yerevan, RFE/RL’s Armenian service reports.
Chanting “We are the masters of our country!” the protesters broke through a police cordon and approached the sprawling building in the city center. Riot police at the scene regrouped to prevent them from entering the building.
The protesters in Yerevan issued an official statement demanding to the government to adhere to the laws of the Constitution.
“We do not accept the anti-social and anti-democratic decision of the Yerevan City Hall, to raise public transport fares to 150 drams (a 50% increase). This decision violates the spirit and letter of Article 1 of the Constitution, which states that The Republic of Armenia is a social democratic republic. This decision directly increases injustice and inequality in our society,” the statement insists.
The statement accused the Yerevan city government of not adhering to its principles of public participation, stating, “There have not been any public hearings on this issue. Instead, the details of the decision were barely announced two days before its enforcement. Moreover, the decision making process has not included any of its stakeholders: the drivers, the passengers, socially vulnerable groups, and civil society representatives.”
The protesters accuse the city government of acting in the interest of private parties and failing to “fulfill its most basic role as the protector of the public interest.”
The statement explains that the first goal of the protests is the immediate and full reversal of the price hikes, before laying out the movement’s long-term goals, which, according to the statement, include a complete nationalization of the public transit system of Yerevan, a publication of the list of private companies which own Yerevan’s transit networks, and, until nationalization, stricter regulations on transportation companies with enforcement of better working conditions for their employees.
According to Armenpress, in response to the previous days’ events, Armenia’s Human Rights Defender Karen Andreasyan made a statement to the mayor of Yerevan, Taron Margaryan, questioning his decision making process in raising transportation fares.
“The decision to increase public transportation fares is unacceptable without a proper public discussion, but it is more condemnable when such an increase is made with rough violations of the law,” Andreasyan said, adding, “We are certain that if the increase in fares was made with legal violations, the guilty must not only be punished, but also be made to materially compensate our compatriots for the additional money paid since July 20.”
More protests are expected to be staged in Yerevan in the course of the week, with some opposition parties rallying behind the movement.
The ruling Republican government in Yerevan is warning the young protesters to be careful not to destabilize the situation in Armenia, reports ArmeniaNow, while Deputy Chairman of the Republican Party of Armenia Razmik Zohrabyan denounced the protests as an act orchestrated by outsiders.