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Activists Pledge Protests As Fare Hikes Threaten Return

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  • Activists Pledge Protests As Fare Hikes Threaten Return

    Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

    A protester holds a sign, "We won't pay 150 drams!" (Photo by Nayiry
    Ghazarian, The Armenian Weekly)

    YEREVAN (RFE/RL)-Youth activists challenging Yerevan's municipal
    administration pledged on Wednesday to launch a new campaign of
    protests against what they see as government plans to significantly
    raise the cost of public transport in the Armenian capital.

    More than 60 private firms operating bus and minibus routes in the
    city demanded such a price hike in a joint appeal to the Mayor's
    Office earlier this week. They said they will continue incurring
    serious losses unless the existing fares are raised from 100 drams
    (24 U.S. cents) to 150-200 drams per ride.

    The municipality already raised transport fees by over 50 percent
    in July. But it failed to enforce the unpopular decision due
    to unprecedented protests organized by hundreds of mostly young
    activists. The latter succeeded in convincing many commuters not to
    pay higher fees. The fare hike was suspended as a result.

    Yerevan Mayor Taron Markarian last month did not rule out the
    possibility of making another attempt to raise the fares. Markarian
    said his final decision will be based on the recommendations of an
    ad hoc commission on transport set up by him.

    Sevak Mamian, one of the leaders of the vocal youth movement,
    described the joint appeal by the transport firms as a prelude to
    a renewed surge in bus fares. He said the activists are therefore
    gearing up for fresh street protests.

    "I think that the protests will be bigger than the previous ones
    because our citizens saw that their struggle can produce results,"
    Mamian told RFE/RL's Armenian service ( "For instance,
    among my acquaintances there are many people who didn't participate in
    our last demonstrations but will now definitely take to the streets."

    The municipality said in July that one of the factors behind its
    intention to raise the fares is a recent 50 percent rise in the price
    of Russian natural gas delivered to Armenia. Virtually all buses and
    minibuses in the country run on liquefied or pressurized gas.

    The protesting youths and other government critics dismiss this
    explanation, saying that Yerevan's municipal transport system is
    inherently flawed because of government corruption. They say that
    many of the lucrative bus routes have long been controlled by senior
    officials, including Mayor Markarian, and their relatives.