Speaker Warns Against Pressures to Cut Energy Prices

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Parliament speaker Khosrov Harutiunian said on Wednesday he will not tolerate public pressure on the National Assembly to adopt an opposition bill reducing electricity fees in the second and final reading. Harutiunian said he is against the cuts approved on Monday in the first reading by parliament as hundreds of opposition supporters picketed it." Any pickets are absolutely unacceptable and I may interrupt the session if they are repeated next time. The National Assembly cannot operate normally under such mass pressure," he told RFE/RL.

The preliminary decision to lower the fees–not affordable for many Armenia’s–by approximately one quarter was made after many pro-government deputies chose to back it–unwilling to lose votes in the May elections. The speaker–who was absent on Monday–said he will try to prevent any price cuts to avoid "economic confusion" in Armenia.

President Robert Kocharian has said through a spokesman that he will veto the bill if it is finally approved. He met on Tuesday with leaders of the biggest Yerkrapah faction in parliament apparently to discuss the issue. Harutiunian added that the government is also to blame for its failure to present "serious justifications" to lawmakers.

The opposition Hayrenik group–which authored the controversial bill–was on Wednesday collecting signatures to debate it in the second reading next Monday.

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