Protests in Romania through the eyes of an Indian!
There have been massive public demonstrations in Romania over the last week, in response to fears that the Romanian government was retreating on anti-corruption reforms. The government issued a decree recently, which is seen by the public as a setback in the nation’s fight against corruption.
Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets across the country, including over 80,000 in front of the government’s headquarters in Bucharest last Thursday. There are protests in 20 other cities in the country as well, with many members of the public demanding for the government to resign.
So far a cabinet minister has resigned and a number of top leaders, such as the vice-president of the ruling leftwing Social Democrats (PSD), have asked for the decree to be taken back.
Romania is generally a very stable country politically, so the scale of the protests is unprecedented. Not since the fall of communism has one seen such massive demonstrations and display of public anger on any issue in Romania.
Critics say that the decree would shield corrupt officials from getting convicted on charges of bribery. Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu has so far refused to repeal it.
“We took a decision in the government and we are going to press ahead,” Prime Minister Grindeanu said after holding a meeting with the other important leaders of the ruling leftwing Social Democrats (PSD). Liviu Dragnea, who heads the PSD said that the protests were because of an “ongoing campaign of lies and disinformation.”
“The PSD won elections [in December] with a huge vote. The government’s power is legitimate,” Mr. Dragnea said. He called the centre-right president and opposition leader Klaus Iohannis as the “moral author of last night’s violence”.
Mr. Iohannis has said that he would approach the constitutional court to squash the ordinance before it becomes a law. He said that the protests indicate that the ordinary Romanians, who are law abiding by nature, want the supremacy of the law to remain in the country.
The protests are massive and they are growing by the day. Dan Brett, a professor at the Open University said, “The size of the protests and the range of protesters is hugely significant and shows the depth and breadth of anger. However, [those] who [might] benefit from the law have no interest in backing down. They are working on the assumption that as with most protests they will soon fizzle out and so can be ignored.”
Many foreign countries have supported the protestors and voiced their opposition to the ordinance. Germany, Canada, United States, Finland, the Netherlands and France have urged the Romanian government to reconsider its decision as it affected the “progress on rule of law and the fight against corruption over the past ten years”.
US state department spokesman Mark Toner was critical of the decision taken by the Romanian government as well: “The United States is deeply concerned about the government of Romania’s recent measures that undermine rule of law and weaken accountability for financial and corruption-related crimes.”
Author: Raghav Hegde – India