Romanians dig in over corruption standoff

Romanians dig in over corruption standoff

Romanians dig in over corruption standoff

Protesters and riot police clashed in Bucharest last night as hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated against an emergency decree that could free officials jailed for corruption.

The news came after a fifth consecutive day of protests against the proposed law, which saw tens of thousands of Romanians take to the streets all around the country.

Wednesday's protests highlighted the simmering anger against Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu's Social Democratic Party (PSD), which has been in power for less than two months.

Friday's protest in the capital, which drew around 100,000 people, saw effigies of the government officials in prison fatigues paraded through the crowds to jeers and shouts of "Thieves!".

On Friday, Romania's national ombudsman vowed to invoke the constitutional court, saying it was unclear why the abuse of power decree was urgent.

Two opposition centrist parties, the Liberal Party and the Save Romania Union, also filed a motion of no-confidence yesterday against Grindeanu and the government, but this has little chance of succeeding, says RTE.

It said that the decree was necessary due to overcrowding in prisons, but opponents have pointed out that the ruling PSD leader Liviu Dragnea would directly benefit from the change, having been accused of defrauding the state of €24,000. While S&P Global Ratings said risks to Romania's investment-grade status are now balanced, it warned that the turmoil could dent investor confidence and harm growth.

Romania's new decree diluting the country's corruption law ignited a furor Thursday, prompting strong criticism from home and overseas and a declaration from the president that he would ask judges to declare it unconstitutional.

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The emergency decree was brought in on Tuesday and comes into effect in 10 days.

Corruption in Romania is considered some of the worst in Europe, and the European Commission has warned the government against derailing efforts to clean it up.

The decree approved last Tuesday has triggered the biggest street protests Romania has seen in years, and has also drawn worldwide condemnation as a major step backwards on reforms.

In recent years, Romania has been touted as a regional leader for targeting the rich and the powerful in a crackdown on corruption.

Some analysts say the government hopes the court will overturn the most contentious elements of the decree.

"To sustain Romania's credibility in the global community, and to remain attractive to investment and ensure continued economic growth, the United States calls on the Romanian government to reverse these actions", said State Department spokesman Mark Toner.

Adults came to the protest Saturday in Bucharest with their children or dogs, stressing the peaceful nature of the rally to fight corruption.

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