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Protests Resume In Romania; President To Challenge Decree

  • RFE/RL

Romanians took to the streets to resume protests against moves by the government that critics say would weaken anticorruption legislation, and President Klaus Iohannis said he would challenge the government's emergency decree in the Constitutional Court.

Hundreds gathered again on February 2 outside the government building, a day after more than 300,000 people protested in some 50 cities in the largest antigovernment demonstrations since the fall of communism in 1989.

More than 150,000 people attended the protest in Bucharest on February 1. Clashes between riot police and smaller groups of protesters broke out toward the end of the demonstrations, and authorities said several police officers and protesters were injured.

The protests came after the new government abruptly adopted an emergency decree on January 31 decriminalizing some official misconduct, barely a month since the Social Democrat-led government of Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu took power.

Center-right President Iohannis, who has been at odds with the new leftist coalition formed after a December parliamentary election, sharply criticized the government's moves. He participated in antigovernment protests in Bucharest last month.

Iohannis told a news conference on February 2 that he would challenge the decree in the Constitutional Court and demanded the resignation of Interior Minister Carmen Daniela Dan, saying she had failed to ensure the safety of peaceful protesters.

Dan rejected the accusations, saying there had been no prior indications of possible violence during the protest. Meanwhile, Justice Minister Florin Iordache, who formally proposed the decree, said he was handing over his duties to his deputy until February 7.

Romania's top judicial watchdog has already filed a Constitutional Court challenge to the decree, which will take effect in 10 days unless blocked by a court ruling.

The country's anticorruption body, the DNA, says it has opened an investigation into the legality of the emergency decree.

The government's move came despite widespread domestic and international warnings that the decree would be a huge setback for Romania's anticorruption fight and would free dozens of officials jailed for corruption in the European Union member country.

One of the top beneficiaries of the decree would be Liviu Dragnea, the leader of the governing Social Democrats, who has been convicted of abuse of office and is under investigation in a separate case. If the decree comes into force, Dragnea's conviction would be quashed, which would allow him to legally become prime minister.

In a related development on February 2, cabinet minister Florin Jianu resigned in protest over the government's moves. Jianu, who is minister of business, trade and entrepreneurship, announced his resignation on Facebook, saying it was the "ethical [thing] to do."

With reporting by Digi24HD, AFP, Reuters, and AP
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