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International - February 2, 2017

Thousands protest over new decree to decriminalise corruption

Demonstrators on the streets in Bucharest, Romania.

Over 100,000 people are protesting in the Romanian capital over an emergency government decree decriminalising a string of corruption offences.

The protesters on Wednesday evening in Bucharest shouted “Rats” and carried banners that read “The morning shift”, sending a message that the protests will continue until the government resigns.

The marches against the government’s move followed similar protests a day earlier.

Some 130,000 people marched in Bucharest, while another 100,000-150,000 were estimated by riot police to have joined similar rallies in 55 other towns and cities, including Timisoara, Cluj, Iasi and Sibiu.

Romania’s top judicial watchdog announced a court challenge on Wednesday against the government decree decriminalising a number of corruption offences in what critics say is the biggest retreat on reforms since the country joined the European Union a decade ago.

The decree, unveiled by the Social Democrat-led government of Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu after it took power earlier this month, has drawn sharp criticism and triggered the biggest street protests since the fall of communism in Romania in 1989.

If enforced, the decree would, among other things, decriminalise abuse-of-power offences in which the sums involved were less than 200,000 lei ($48,000).

That would put an end to an ongoing trial of Social Democrat party leader Liviu Dragnea, who is accused of using his political influence to secure state salaries for two people working at his party headquarters between 2006 and 2013. Dozens of MPs and mayors across all parties stand to benefit from the decree.

“I don’t understand what protesters are upset about,” Dragnea told reporters on Tuesday. (Aljazeera)

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