Yerevan Mayor Rules Out Dismissals

A sign held by protesters tells Henrik Navasardyan to quit.

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Yerevan Mayor Taron Margaryan on Tuesday ruled out, through a spokesman, the dismissal of two senior municipal officials, as demanded by youth activists holding non-stop demonstrations outside his office.

The officials in question are the head of the transportation department Henrik Navasardyan and the director of a municipal bus operator, Misak Hambardzumyan. The protesting activists want the two men to be fired because of their response to nearly weeklong demonstrations that forced Margaryan to freeze a rise in transport fares last week. Navasardyan also caused outrage by apparently swearing at a journalist, who was covering the protests.

“Any dismissal of a local official must be substantiated,” Armen Gevorgyan, the Yerevan municipality spokesman, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Just because some people have come up with some demands doesn’t mean that they must be fired.”

The protesters’ demands were also rejected by Astghik Gevorgyan, a leader of the pro-government majority in Yerevan’s municipal assembly. She argued that Margaryan suspended the bus fare hikes and offered representatives of the youth activists to join an ad hoc municipal commission tasked with proposing a reform of the city’s transport system.

The several dozen activists holding a round-the-clock sit-in outside the Mayor’s Office repeated, however, that they will boycott the commission until Navasardyan and Hambardzumyan are relieved of their duties. “I don’t think that sitting at the same table with those two individuals would be the right step because the presence of officials with such a value system makes us think that it won’t be possible to discuss any serious issue there,” one of them said.

Representatives of the two other political groups represented in the city’s Council of Elders have also been offered to join the commission. They both voiced on Tuesday serious misgivings about the ad hoc body, saying they fear that the authorities are intent on using it to legitimize a renewed tariff hike.

The opposition Barev Yerevan bloc sent written questions to Margaryan’s office asking it to clarify the commission’s mission. “We will participate if the answers to our questions sent to the mayor give us hope that the commission will be a decision-making body,” Stepan Safarian, a Barev Yerevan leader, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.

“From our perspective, the commission can address only one issue: to improve the situation regarding public transportation, but not through higher fees,” Naira Zohrabian, a leader of the Prosperous Armenia Party, said for her part.

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