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Romanian Government Backs Down On Corruption Decree Following Protests

RFE/RL February 04, 2017

Romanian Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu has announced his government will repeal a decree that decriminalized some official corruption in response to nearly a week of massive public protests.

Grindeanu said on February 4 that the government would hold a session the following day to rescind the decree.

"I don't want to divide Romania," Grindeanu told reporters. "It can't be divided in two."

The move came as tens thousands of people gathered at protests across the nation for the fifth straight day.

On February 4, police estimated the total number of demonstrators at 330,000, making them the largest protests in the country since the 1989 fall of Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

While the announcement was broadcast on live television, some of the protesters outside Grindeanu's office -- which police estimated to number 170,000 -- waved the Romanian flag and chanted: "Resign! Resign!"

Under the January 31 decree, abuse of power would only be an offense punishable by prison time if the amount involved exceeded 200,000 lei ($47,500).

The government justified the decree by saying the current law did not conform the constitution and claiming it would help ease prison overcrowding.

Critics said the real goal was to help some of the several thousand officials and politicians caught in an anticorruption drive in recent years, many of them from Grindeanu's PSD. Grindeanu took office a month ago.

The government's pullback could be seen as a victory for President Klaus Iohannis, who filed a Constitutional Court challenge against the decree, arguing that it undermined the rule of law and efforts to combat corruption.

Some members of the European Union had expressed concerns about the decree.

Romania joined the EU in 2007, but it, like Bulgaria, is still under the bloc's mechanism for monitoring whether they are meeting EU requirements before being granted full and permanent membership.

With reporting by AFP, AP, dpa, and Reuters

Source: http://www.rferl.org/a/romania-graft-decree -crisis-protests/28279101.html

Copyright (c) 2017. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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