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Thousands continue protests against government in Romania

Monday, 13 February 2017

BUCHAREST – Thousands of Romanians protested in Bucharest and other cities on Sunday against the Social Democrat government that tried to weaken a crackdown on corruption earlier this month.

The one-month-old cabinet of Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu enraged voters when it quietly approved late on 31 January an emergency decree that would have decriminalised several graft offences.

The decree, which was widely criticized in Romania and by its Western allies, prompted the largest display of popular anger since the fall of communism in 1989, with at least half a million people taking to the streets last Sunday.

The government was forced to rescind the decree, and its architect, Justice Minister Florin Iordache resigned, citing a need to appease public opinion but arguing he had done nothing wrong.

But even after the decree was withdrawn, rallies have continued throughout the week, with protesters demanding the resignation of a government they say they cannot trust.

In Bucharest on Sunday, at least 50,000 people gathered outside the government’s headquarters, carrying banners that said “Resist” and chanting “We want to work, not guard you”. At 1900 GMT they raised pieces of red, yellow and blue coloured paper above their heads to form a giant Romanian flag. Tens of thousands protested in other Romanian cities and abroad.

Parliament, where the ruling coalition holds a big majority, must still vote on whether to confirm the decree’s withdrawal.

On Friday, Social Democrat leader and lower house speaker Liviu Dragnea said parliament should meet to approve the withdrawal as soon as possible.

Dragnea, who is on trial in an abuse of power case and who would have benefited from the decree, has urged allowing the government to implement a programme of wage and pension increases that helped the Social Democrats win the 11 December election.

Interim Justice Minister Ana Birchall has said she plans to meet the top magistrates council, chief prosecutors and other members of the judiciary on Monday to discuss changes to the criminal code.

Premier Grindeanu has said the decree was rescinded in the interests of social unity. He then appointed earlier this week a vice president of the state’s food safety authority who is under investigation by anti-corruption prosecutors for 19 counts of bribe taking. Grindeanu dismissed her one day later.

Source by: Internet

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