Energy Privatization Bill Passed in Final Reading

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The Armenian parliament adopted late Friday a government bill on the privatization of the country’s electricity distribution companies in the final–second reading after the cabinet agreed to minor amendmen’s in the document.

The bill–which will be signed into law by President Robert Kocharian–effectively gives the government a free hand to complete the last stage of the year-long bidding for the networks.

Winners of the international tender–supervised by the World Bank–are expected to be announced in October. They will be chosen from a among four shortlisted Western companies.

Despite a deepening discord in the governing Unity bloc Prime Minister Andranik Markarian succeeded in mustering support for pushing the bill through the National Assembly by a comfortable majority of votes. Political analysts believe that its defeat would have put Markarian’s continued premiership at risk.

Joining the Unity in voting for the bill were the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and the Stability factions in the parliament.

Opposition groups hostile to the sell-off say many ostensibly independent deputies were pressurized into voting for what amounted to a formal go-ahead to the energy privatization.

Last-minute opposition attempts to bloc the privatization effort proved fruitless. The number of deputies who voted for the bill in the first and second readings was almost the same.

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