In an emergency meeting, Romania has repealed a controversial corruption decree. But that wasn't enough to keep hundreds of thousands of people from taking to the streets in protests.
Romania formally repealed a controversial measure on Sunday. A day earlier, Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu said the government planned to withdraw the corruption decree, which sparked the country's biggest protests since the fall of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989.
But about half a million people still took to the streets to protest on Sunday, some of them calling for the government to resign. An estimated 200,000-300,000 people demonstrated in Bucharest, 40,000 in Timisoara and 45,000 in Cluj-Napoca.
The decree decriminalized abuse-of-power offenses involving sums below 200,000 lei (44,000 euros/$48,000) to the potential benefit of dozens of political figures from all parties - not least the head of the ruling Social Democrats (PSD). Liviu Dragnea, viewed as the real power behind Grindeanu's month-old government, stands accused of using his political influence to secure state salaries for two people working at his party headquarters between 2006 and 2013. His conviction on electoral fraud charges barred him from seeking office himself.
On Friday, up to 250,000 people across Romania demonstrated against the law. More than 300,000 people took to the streets of Romania on Saturday - the fifth straight day of protest against the decree. Demonstrators marched through the streets of the capital, Bucharest, to the parliament building, where they formed a human chain.
'Can't be divided'
At a news conference Saturday, Grindeanu said he would seek "a legal way to make sure it does not take effect." He added: "I do not want to divide Romania. It can't be divided in two."
Romania joined the European Union in 2007 but remains subject to a monitoring mechanism for cooperation to determine whether it meets the bloc's standards. The country still has not reached the benchmark in judiciary reforms and in the fight against corruption. However, anti-corruption efforts in the past years have led to more than 1,000 convictions for graft - including that of a former prime minister.
Grindeanu's government took over in early January, following the triumph of the PSD and its liberal junior partner, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats.
mkg/sms (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)