YEREVAN — Responding to a government crackdown, Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP) leader Gagik Tsarukian on Friday urged supporters to take to the streets and topple President Serzh Sarkisian with sustained protests.

Tsarukian said he is undaunted by the prospect of losing his parliamentary immunity from prosecution and tax inspections of his numerous businesses which were ordered by Sarkisian the previous night. “I am taking up the gauntlet and am going to fight till the victory,” he told an emergency meeting with senior PAP figures.

“A new situation has emerged since yesterday and it requires a solution. I believe that the only solution is a complete regime change by means of pre-term presidential elections,” he declared in uncharacteristically straightforward remarks publicized by the BHK after the meeting.

“I am now calling for a nationwide mobilization pursuing a single goal: to achieve Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation and get rid of this government of evil through all legal political methods such as nonstop rallies, marches, demonstrations, disobedience and so on,” he said.

“This regime must be immediately ousted and we must turn this inglorious and shameful page of our history,” added Tsarukian.

The tycoon, who leads Armenia’s second largest parliamentary force, did not set any dates or give other details of street protests planned by him.

In his speech, Tsarukian also brushed aside Sarkisian’s claims that he is unfit to govern Armenia and has long evaded taxes. He said the Armenian president and his cronies themselves have “stolen billions of dollars from the people” during their seven-year rule which he called disastrous for the country.

Tsarukian also claimed that Sarkisian declared a “war” on him after he refused to back Sarkisian’s plans to amend the constitution and turn Armenia into a parliamentary republic. He said Sarkisian has gone as far as to offer him to become the country’s next, largely ceremonial president in return for his endorsement of the constitutional reform.

“I categorically rejected this anti-state approach because the man responsible for Armenia’s regress cannot have such ambitions,” Tsarukian went on. The planned reform is aimed at enabling Sarkisian to stay in power in a different capacity for the rest of his life, he charged.

The PAP leader repeated his popular slogan once again “Our word is a deed” and said that the biggest mission of his life now is the task of removing the current ruling regime. “This government must be dismissed immediately, and we must close this miserable and shameful page of our history.”

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