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Romanians Brave The Cold To Keep Up Pressure On Government

  • RFE/RL

Protesters held blue, yellow, and red placards representing the Romanian flag, shouting, "Thou shalt not steal," "A thief, two thieves, three thieves, all thieves," and "Down with corruption."

Protesters held blue, yellow, and red placards representing the Romanian flag, shouting, "Thou shalt not steal," "A thief, two thieves, three thieves, all thieves," and "Down with corruption."

More than 70,000 people in the Romanian capital of Bucharest kept up the pressure on the government late on February 12, creating a human tricolor flag as they called the country's leaders "thieves" and chanted "down with corruption."

The demonstration marked the 13th consecutive day of protests against the Social Democrat-led government of Sorin Grindeanu, with smaller gatherings reported in cities throughout the country.

The crowd numbers are down from an estimated peak of 600,000 across the country on February 5, when the largest protest since the fall of communism demanded that government scrap a decree that would have weakened efforts to reduce corruption in the country.

Critics said the decree was aimed at helping corrupt politicians avoid or get out of jail.

One of the main beneficiaries would have been Liviu Dragnea, the leader of the ex-communist Social Democrats (PSD).

Dragnea has been convicted of abuse of office and is on trial in a separate graft case. His conviction bars him from becoming prime minister.

The government repealed the decree on February 5, but many protesters have remained on the streets demanding the resignation of Grindeanu, who took office just a month ago.

Reports said about 30,000 took part in protests elsewhere in the country on February 12, with 10,000 in Cluj, 5,000 in Timisoara, 7,000 in the central city of Sibiu, and 1,500 in Brasov.

In Bucharest, thousands braved the cold to gather in the main square in front of the Romanian government building in the capital to press their demands.

Protesters held blue, yellow, and red placards representing the Romanian flag, shouting, "Thou shalt not steal," "A thief, two thieves, three thieves, all thieves," and "Down with corruption."

Despite the public demonstrations, Grindeanu has refused to resign.

Justice Minister Florin Iordache, who had formally proposed the controversial decree, did resign on February 9, but it was not enough to satisfy many of the protesters.

"The justice minister's resignation isn't enough after what they tried to do," one demonstrator said.

Much smaller pro-government counterdemonstrations have taken place outside the presidential palace against President Klaus Iohannis, who has come out in support of the anticorruption protesters.

Iohannis was head of the center-right National Liberal Party before becoming president in 2014.

The president is elected through a direct vote, separately from the parliament.

With reporting by Eugen Tomiuc, RFE/RL’s Moldovan Service, AFP, and Digi24hd.ro
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