Romania: government retracts controversial decree after protests
The Romanian government has backed down from plans to decriminalise corruption offences after days of mass protests in Bucharest.
The prime minister, Sorin Grindeanu, said that the law would be repealed in a cabinet meeting on Sunday after an estimated 140,000 demonstrators protested against the law close to his office. It was the fifth consecutive night of protests against the proposal.
Protesters are angry the measure will water down the country’s anti-corruption fight against politicians and senior officials. The anti-corruption drive was prompted by that killed 64 people, which was blamed on corrupt officials turning a blind eye to fire regulations.
“We’ll hold an extraordinary meeting on Sunday to repeal the decree, withdraw, cancel it … and find a legal way to make sure it does not take effect,” Grindeanu said in a televised speech.
The prime minister said the proposal would be sent to the Romanian parliament for debate, which experts warn is not likely to appease protesters, who want the proposal to be cancelled completely.
“I don’t want to divide Romania … it can’t be divided in two. in this moment seems broken in two,” he said.
The decree was due to come into force at midnight on Friday. Under its proposed terms it would have decriminalised abuse of power offences when sums of less than €44,000 (£38,000) are involved.
One immediate beneficiary would have been Liviu Dragnea who leads the ruling PSD party and faces charges of defrauding the state of €24,000.
The country’s constitutional court is expected to rule next week on whether the measure was legal. The EU had warned Romania against undoing progress against corruption.
A separate bill to go before parliament would free about 2,500 prisoners on short sentences.
The government said it was bringing legislation into line with the constitution and reducing overcrowding in prisons.
The protests, which have witnessed huge crowds in Bucharest and other major cities, have been the largest since the fall of communism in 1989.