Romanians poured into the streets of major cities to protest the government’s surprise decision to quash investigations into officials being probed for corruption and seek the annulment of convictions for other convicted offenders.
Demonstrations in Bucharest, where temperatures fell to -7 Celsius (19.4 Fahrenheit), drew about 12,000 people demanding the government’s resignation, while at least 8,000 gathered elsewhere in the eastern European nation. The cabinet late Tuesday backed proposals that had earlier sparked the biggest protests since the fall of communism. Parliament must approve the bill on pardons, while changes to the criminal code took effect after they were published in the official journal early on Wednesday.
“We have to approve these changes because we risk penalties from the European Court for Human Rights,” Justice Minister Florin Iordache said. “I took into account all the requests of the people and amended the bills.”
The Social Democratic-led government that took over the European Union and NATO member a month ago is facing unprecedented public opposition to its revamp in criminal legislation via emergency decrees. About 90,000 people demonstrated Sunday in a second weekend of dissent, with at least 50,000 rallying in the capital alone. Protesters back a long-standing anti-corruption drive and want the justice minister to quit.