More than 2,000 Romanians rallied in Bucharest on March 12, continuing the series of anti-corruption protests that began on January 31. The latest demonstration was against a proposal to introduce pardons for officials convicted of corruption.
The number of protesters was small compared to the hundreds of thousands who turned out earlier this year after the government adopted an emergency decree to partly decriminalise abuse of office – a move which was seen as a significant step backwards in Romania’s anti-corruption fight. While this has since been revoked, Sunday’s demonstration shows that Romanians are still closely following the government’s activities in this area.
Demonstrators on March 12 took to the streets against amendments to a draft bill, which would include corrupt politicians among those set to receive pardons under proposed legislation. The amendments were put forward by senator Serban Nicolae of the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD).
Nicolae, who is also the leader of the legal committee in the Senate, has proposed that the articles referring to corruption crimes, including abuse of office and bribery, should be eliminated from the lists of sentences to which the pardon legislation does not apply, according to a document quoted by Hotnews.ro.
The protest on March 12 started as usual in Victory Square, in front of the government’s headquarters. The protesters marched to University Square and then stopped in front of the Palace of the Parliament.
The protesters chanted slogans such as “Shame on you”, “DNA [the National Anticorruption Directorate], don’t forget, we are on your side”, “Romania says no to pardon”, “Thieves”, “Resignation” and “PSD, the red plague”.
The event was organised on Facebook under the title “Game over. In democracy, thieves stay in prisons”.
According to the event’s Facebook page, protesters are also discontented about the government’s planned spending, warning that it could lead the country into bankruptcy. Labour Minister Lia Olguta Vasilescu has said the government plans to double salaries of public employees which are currently below RON4,000 (€880). Vasilescu later said that wages in the public sector would gradually rise on average by 56% over the next four years.
In addition, the protesters criticised the senate’s rejection of an emergency decree which would have led to the depoliticisation of hospital management.
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