For the first time in decades, as many as 250,000 Romanians took to the streets on Wednesday evening, in order to demonstrate against a government decree, which decriminalizes some corruption offences. Critics said, that move was the largest step in the wrong direction since Romania joined the European Union ten years and one month ago.
Up to 150,000 protesters turned up in front of the cabinet building in Bucharest. A similar number of people demonstrated in a total of 55 other towns and cities throughout the country.
The demonstrations were largely peaceful. But, later in the evening, when some 300 protesters started throwing stones at officers, police used tear gas. Four people were injured.
On Tuesday evening, the government in Bucharest had approved decree, which would decriminalize abuse-of-power offenses, depending on the money amounts involved. That decree would help the leader of the party which calls itself “Social Democratic”, Liviu Dragnea, who is standing trial right now. The accusation: He supposedly used his political influence to secure state salaries for two persons who worked at the office of his party. Dragnea is not the only Romanian politician who would benefit from the decree.
A judicial watchdog organization in Bucharest filed a constitutional court challenge to the decree on Wednesday.
Romania’s President, Klaus Iohannis, sided with the protesters. “The problem is that one cannot act the way the government did in a country with the rule of law, which Romania is and wants to remain”, he said. European governments and E.U. officials released similar statements.
Photos by Alejandro Ilukewitsch