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Half million Romanians urge government to resign

Half million Romanians urge government to resign #demisia (#resignation in Romanian) projected on a building during protests in Piata Victoriei square, Bucharest - February 5, 2017

BUCHAREST (Romania), February 6 (SeeNews) - An estimated record 500,000 people gathered on Sunday night in Bucharest and other Romanian cities in the biggest rallies since the fall of communism in 1989 seeking the government's resignation even though the cabinet earlier repealed its decree that eases or scraps penalties for corruption offences.

The government published on Sunday in the Official Gazette an emergency ordinance which completely revokes the previous one that prompted people to protest for a sixth day running but protesters urged the government to step down particualrly after local media reported there was a serious legal glitch in the new decree, which might be ruled unconstitutional.

The initial decree, seen as an attempt to weaken the fight against corruption and help politicians avoid criminal prosecution on graft charges will be subject to vote in parliament as an ordinary bill, prime minister Sorin Grindeanu said in a press release. No one from the coalition government of left-wing Social Democrat Party (PSD) and centre-right Liberal-Democrat Alliance (ALDE) came out on TV to announce the news.

Grindeanu, however, told Romania TV by phone that he is not going to resign under street pressure and added that his government, which took office last month, has a responsibility to the people who have voted for it. He also said he will analyze justice minister Florin Iordache's performance in the crisis and will decide his future in the government.

Iordache said that the ministry will publish on Monday the details of a new draft bill on changes to the criminal code, which will need to pass vote in parliament .

PSD leader Liviu Dragnea said that he does not believe in the spontaneity of the anti-government protests. He added that he is convinced that the rallies were organised by unnamed forces behind the scenes.

Some 1,000 people gathered in front of presidential headquarters building in Cotroceni, Bucharest on Sunday, protesting against president Klaus Iohannis and in support of PSD, who denied any involvement. Iohannis has lashed out at the government decree which could weaken Romania's anti-corruption drive.

An estimated 250,000 people protested peacefully in Bucharest only and a total of 250,000 marched on Sunday through the streets of almost all big cities, according to local media reports. Romanians living abroad again expressed their dissatisfaction with the government backtracking on the fight against corruption, holding protests in Paris, London, Brussels,Turin, Oslo, Copenhagen, Dublin and many others, Romanian media reported.

Solidarity protests were held in front of the Romanian embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria and in Chisinau, Moldova.

Peaceful protests were held across Romania on Friday and Saturday, too.

Last week, technocrat minister responsible for business environment, Florin Jianu, resigned because of the protests.

Also, several PSD members have resigned or called for the repeal of the emergency decree.

Opposition National Liberal Party (PNL) and Save Romania Union (USR) filed a censure motion against the government on Wednesday . PNL leader Raluca Turcan urged the other parties in parliament to leave it and thus trigger early elections.

The decree, hastily adopted last Tuesday, had been challenged at the constitutional court by Romania's Superior Council of Magistracy, president Iohannis, prosecutor general Augustin Lazar and ombudsman Victor Ciorbea.

These are the most massive protests in Romania since the bloody overthrow of communist dictator Nicolae Ceusescu in December 1989. Also, a year ago, thousands marched in the streets after a fire in a night club in Bucharest claimed 64 lives. Back then, former PSD leader Victor Ponta resigned as prime minister under public pressure and was replaced by technocrat Dacian Ciolos.

(1 euro = 4.5156 lei)

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