Responding to a government crackdown, Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) 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 BHK 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. He said he will meet with his two main opposition allies, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian and Zharangutyun party leader Raffi Hovannisian, later in the day to discuss “a full set of joint steps.” The meeting began in the afternoon.
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.
Sarkisian lashed out at the BHK leader, reputed to be close to his predecessor Robert Kocharian, just days after Tsarukian publicly warned him to drop the reform plans or face an opposition push for “regime change.” In a statement circulated earlier this week, the BHK and several other, smaller opposition groups said that a referendum on Sarkisian’s constitutional amendments would spark nonstop anti-government protests.