The clampdown on street trade announced by Yerevan’s new mayor continues despite serious protests staged by vendors late last week and their promise to continue their actions.
At the weekend dismantling of makeshift trading pavilions also began at a popular Yerevan fair, Malatia, leading to another 200 traders potentially joining the ranks of the disgruntled.
“This will directly lead to social riots. How can they throw away thousands of people? There is no factory or some other work to do for them,” said one trader, Vachagan Martirosyan, who has been selling bed-linens at Malatia for the last six years.
A month after assuming the mayoral office former gas company chief executive Karen Karapetyan made a decision to enforce the law “On Trade and Services” passed five years ago, but never applied in earnest – to clear the streets and territories adjacent to markets from individual traders who have been chaotically mushrooming in capital Yerevan.
While Karapetyan’s predecessors had also sought to enforce street trade law, they gave up on their similar effort after several days and would only target food sellers. The new mayor, however, has ordered the dismantling of improvised stores trading in construction materials, tools, clothes, etc..
According to official data, some 3,000 people are engaged in trading business outside officially designated marketplaces. But unofficial estimates suggest their real number may reach 12,000.
For several days now disgruntled traders have been gathering near the mayor’s office raising concerns that the mayor’s decision will increase social tensions.
Richard Giragosian, the director of the Armenian Center for National and International Studies, has even compared the situation to recent disturbances in Tunisia sparked by the ban on street trade that led to the change of leadership in this northern African country.
“Street trade in the capital, no doubt, should be banned. But it should be done gradually. The way chosen by the current mayor will not solve the problem of street trade, but will only increase social tensions,” says analyst Suren Surenyants, a former member of the political council of the opposition Hanrapetutyun party.
Meanwhile, members of the municipality’s Council of Elders, a body of elected representatives in Yerevan, welcome the decision.
Chairwoman of the Journalists’ Union Astghik Gevorgyan, who is a member of the Council of Elders, called the street vending locations “Asian-looking trade sites (that) must be done away with in this city.”