Anti-Corruption Protests In Romania Continue

Over the last six days, hundred of thousands of Romanians have gathered to protest a set of bills passed that reduce government official’s liability in corruption charges.

The protests were sparked last Tuesday, when the Romanian government passed an emergency ordinance that would have made abuse of power a crime punishable by jail only if the sums involved exceeded 200,000 lei ($47,691.79). The news of the ordinance broke at around 10pm, and by midnight there were nearly 12,000 people protesting in Bucharest.

“I don’t normally protest but I just felt such a sense of rage,” said Alexandra Boeriu, a 35-year-old NGO worker who protested outside the main government building in Bucharest. “I was young, but I did live through communism and I know what this is. I don’t want this for my kids. There are a lot of people protesting who want to have a future in this country. It feels like someone has died.”

“You can’t just publish laws in the night and say shut up, we won the election, you have no rights,” said Dragos Stanca, 42, a digital media entrepreneur who was also demonstrating. “It’s a very dangerous precedent. If this is the kind of procedure they do, we wonder what’s next. It looks like anything is possible.”

The protests continued Sunday night, with nearly half a million Romanians taking to the streets even after the repeal of the ordinance. Not satisfied by the repeal, protesters are now demanding the government’s resignation.

“They are liars and bad people,” said Nicole, 25. “The government has to fall ... We are going to come back here every night.”

Romanian Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu has stood firm, saying that his newly elected government, “has a responsibility to the people who voted for us” and would not resign.

The controversy has drawn attention from the EU, who warned the government not to undo anti-corruption measures.

 “The fight against corruption needs to be advanced, not undone,” European commission head Jean-Claude Juncker and his deputy, Frans Timmermans, said in a joint statement. “We are following the latest developments in Romania with great concern.”