Armenia's Barevolution (Hello Revolution) may have petered out, but, in the end, its bus revolution succeeded. After a five-day-long boycott of public transportation in the Armenian capital over a 50-percent fare hike, Yerevan Mayor Taron Markarian on July 25 agreed to scrap the increase.
Some sign of likely change had been in the wind after Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian scoffed at speculation that the boycott was a staged political provocation, describing the campaign as for "social equality, justice and . . . against poverty." Transportation tariffs now stand at 100 drams (24 cents) for buses and marshrutkas and 50 drams (12 cents) for trolleybuses.
Nonetheless, pointed out Hetq Online, the mayor's comments are "somewhat contradictory." While returning prices to their original level, an increase is, he claimed "unavoidable." Though he did not elaborate on the topic, higher prices for imported Russian natural gas, widely used in Armenia as fuel, are thought to have sparked the increase.
A commission made up of "specialists and interested persons" will now sit down to figure out how to introduce a "unified system of payments" for public transportation that could introduce the 150-dram fare without putting "the burden of higher fare rates on socially vulnerable groups . . . " ArmeniaNow.com reported the mayor as saying.
In an apparent attempt at spin, Markarian, however, expressed pleasure that various celebrities and others had started an online carpooling campaign to take Yerevan residents where they wanted to go without public transportation. "I am happy with the warmth that again exists now between Yerevan residents in terms of helping and being more caring toward each other,"RFE/RL's Armenian service reported him as saying in a statement.
But, ultimately, the price reversal could signify more than neighborly good feelings. As Ianyanmag.com noted, the decision gave "Armenians more than a community victory, but the sense they can change more than 50 AMD when they come together."