Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to protest government moves to decriminalise corruption. The protests were the biggest since the fall of communism.
At least 200,000 people hit the streets across Romania on Wednesday to protest the government’s move to decriminalise a string of corruption offences.
In an emergency decree issued late on Tuesday, the government decriminalised certain corruption offences and made abuse of power punishable by jail only if it results in a monetary loss of more than 44,000 euros ($47,500).
Romania’s government under the Social Democrats (PSD) has only been in office a few weeks after bouncing back in December elections. A year earlier protests had forced them out of office.
The government says the decriminalisation decree was in line with Romania’s constitution.
But critics say the main beneficiary will be PSD leader Liviu Dragnea, currently on trial for alleged abuse of power, as well as other left-wing politicians.
Dragnea is already barred from office because of a two-year suspended jail sentence for voter fraud handed down last year. His abuse-of-power trial, which began on Tuesday, concerns 24,000 euros ($26,000).
Another initiative, which Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu will submit to parliament, would see some 2,500 people serving sentences of less than five years for non-violent crimes released from prison.
The government said this will reduce overcrowding in jails. However, opponents say that, again, the main beneficiaries will be the many officials and politicians ensnared in a major anti-corruption drive of recent years.