Romania govt. rejects demands to resign despite mass protests
Romania’s newly-appointed government has refused to step down despite mass demonstrations against a decision to decriminalize certain graft offenses that was later scrapped.
“The government has no reason to resign, it was legitimately elected,” Liviu Dragnea, the leader of the ruling Social Democrat Party (PSD), said after chairing a meeting of senior party officials.
The party also reiterated its support for Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu. “As long as this tense state continues in Romania, no one has anything to gain,” Dragnea said.
Dragnea’s remarks came in defiance of mass protests in the capital Bucharest and across the country that were staged on Sunday despite the cabinet’s reversal of a decree pardoning corrupt officials.
The protests began after the government bypassed the parliament on January 31 and adopted a decree to decriminalize a number of graft offenses, cut prison terms for others and narrow the definition of conflict of interest.
The protesters vowed to stage demonstrations daily until the parliament confirms the withdrawal of the decree, while others said they will continue to protest until the government resigns.
“They [Romania’s leaders] are deeply scared by these huge protests, unprecedented in 27 years,” said independent political commentator Cristian Patrasconiu.
“This amounts to more than a simple step back. Any new move by them needs assessment. Everything looks suspicious,” Patrasconiu added.
The latest developments come amid contradictory reports on updating the criminal code.
Justice Minister Florin Iordache told reporters on Monday morning that he would publish the details of a new, alternative bill to update the criminal code, which would be put to the public for debate for a month.
However, Justice Ministry itself later issued a statement that said it was not planning to draft a bill.
Romania is one of the poorest countries in the European Union. It saw riots last year which many blamed on endemic corruption.