Political Lessons of Baghramyan Protests
The struggle against the electricity price increase was a success since it - politicized but not partisan – took an unprecedented number of people to the streets.

An online debate entitled “Electricity Price Hike: Subsequent Developments in the Foreign and Domestic Policies” was held at the initiative of the Media Center and cybercast at A1plus.am. The speakers included: Tevan Poghosyan, Heritage Faction at the National Assembly; Stepan Grigoryan, Head of the Analytical Centre on Globalization and Regional Cooperation; Mikayel Zolyan, Analyst at the Regional Studies Center; Aghasi Yenokyan, Director at the Armenian Center for International and Political Studies; and Ruben Rubinyan, Civil contract, board member.

“The new generation in Armenia could form a movement and get to the level which led to the victory of June 27 and paved way for addressing the second challenge,” Tevan Poghosyan said.

Ruben Rubinyan stressed it is rather a success than a victory and the movement has not exhausted its force yet.

“Though it has a smaller scale, it is still going on,” Rubinyan said.

Stepan Grigoryan believes Armenians did not want to stand two corruption systems – Armenian and Russian.

“It is an achievement to have so many people on the streets. It is a political movement but not a partisan one and in this regard it was a success,” Mikayel Zolyan said.

Aghasi Yenokyan spoke on referring to the protest in Yerevan as “maydan” by the Russian media, “Russia has invented the term maydan and thinks there is some magic in that word. And if there is a maydan in a country, Russia may send its troops to that country.”

Earlier, the Electric Networks of Armenia (ENA) – a 100% subsidiary of Inter RAO (Russia), applied to the Public Services Regulatory Commission (PSRC) to raise the electricity tariffs. The company suggested increasing the daytime tariff from the current 41.85 to 58.93 AMD per 1kWh and the nighttime tariff from the current 31.85 to 48.93 AMD per 1kWh.

Despite the vehement public protests, on June 17 the PSRC took a decision to partially satisfy the ENA’s application. At the PSRC meeting a decision was made to raise the tariffs by 6.93 AMD instead of 17 AMD suggested by the ENA.

The decision led to public discontent that has grown into unrest and mass protests. On June 22, the protesters blocked Baghramyan Avenue in Yerevan, in front of President Sargsyan’s residence. On the morning of June 23, the demonstration against the recent electricity price hike was dispersed with blasts of water and use of force by the riot police. 237 protesters were dragged away by the police. Journalists and bloggers reported that they, too, had endured rough treatment by uniformed and plainclothes officers.

President Sargsyan has suspended an increase in household electricity rates in an effort to end the protests. He stated the tariff rise would go into force, but the government would cover the extra "burden" instead of the public until an independent audit of the decision was completed. Sargsyan's announcement followed a meeting the night before with Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov. During the meeting, they agreed to an audit of the electricity company. Parallelly, Valery Permyakov and Hrachya Harutyunyan will be tried by an Armenian court. In addition, Moscow is to give Armenia a $200 million loan to purchase sophisticated Russian weapons at a discount.

Tevan Poghosyan shared thoughts on the Armenian-Russian relations and said all relations are driven by interests and if there is a possibility to promote own interests, it should be used. “Many probably were not there to fight against the tariff increase, but rather to prevent the further use of force. The authorities are promoting their interests and we should all be smart to set forth our interests,” Poghosyan said.

Yenokyan said Russia was eager to hear anti-Russian slogans. “It is natural as Russian corrupt official Bibin and Putin are behind it all. The international media have been keeping the spotlight on Baghramyan protests to prevent Russia’s involvement and new invasion in the region. We have what we have because Armenian authorities cannot communicate with Russia as equals,” Yenokyan said.

Rubinyan described the demands of protesters as non-geopolitical and set forth by non-political leaders which, though, have led to geopolitical and political consequences.

“Concerned, Russia chose to address the issues instantly. The movement helped a set of issues emerge and get solved but I doubt that Armenian authorities had their great contributions. I don’t believe our officials called to Moscow and said, “You see what’s happened?” Grigoryan said.

Lilit Arakelyan, Editor-Coordinator

Please contact the author at lilitarakelyan@pjc.am.

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