Protest action against electricity price rise starts in Yerevan

Thousands of people have gathered in a central square in Yerevan tonight to show their protest against plans to raise electricity tariffs by more than 40 percent.

Activists held banners describing the plans as unfair and calling on the state regulators not to allow the rise.

Citing the need to end losses, the Electricity Networks of Armenia (ENA), a Russian-owned company that manages power distribution in the country, formally applied to the Public Services Regulatory Commission earlier this month asking for the electricity tariffs to be raised by 17 drams – from 42 to 59 drams (1 AMD=480 USD). If approved, it will be the third increase in the tariff during the last three years.

Armenia’s main opposition groups and civil activists believe the ENA should not seek to stay profitable at the expense of consumers, but should try to improve management and deal with theft and corruption that they allege exist in the company.

Besides, economists say, the unpopular measure will also make the national economy less competitive as it will increase the cost of production.

Tonight’s rally was initiated by the “No To Plunder” group and was supported by various civic groups and political parties. Among the opposition parties and groups present in the square were the Armenian National Congress, Heritage, the Prosperous Armenia Party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, the extra-parliamentary Founding Parliament movement and others.

After stating their demands to President Serzh Sargsyan and Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan to ensure that electricity tariffs remain unchanged and are even lowered, the “No To Plunder” group activists voiced determination to continue their struggle and warned that they will take to more drastic steps if their demands are not met.

Before the march through central streets of Yerevan the organizers announced that the next large protest against the planned electricity tariff rise will take place on June 19.

Protests against the unpopular measure were also held in other cities and towns across Armenia on May 27.