Romanian government to repeal decree decriminalizing official misconduct | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 04.02.2017
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Romanian government to repeal decree decriminalizing official misconduct

After days of protests, Romania's government has said it plans to repeal a controversial decree that critics said legalized some forms of corruption. Hundreds of thousands turned out on the streets to protest the law.

Romania's Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu announced on Saturday that the government plans to withdraw the corruption decree that sparked the country's biggest protests since the fall of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989.

"Tomorrow we will hold a government meeting to repeal this decree," Grindeanu told a news conference. "I do not want to divide Romania. It can't be divided in two."

Grindeanu said he will hold an extraordinary Cabinet meeting on Sunday to "find a legal way to make sure it does not take effect."

An estimated 120,000 people took to the streets of Romania on Saturday for the fifth day in a row in protest of a decree that decriminalized official misconduct. Demonstrators marched through the streets of Bucharest to the parliament building where they formed a human chain. 

On Friday, between 200,000 and 250,000 people demonstrated across the country.

Political scramble

The move was not completely unexpected as the leader of Grindeanu's Social Democrats (PSD) said earlier on Saturday that the government might withdraw the decree.

Rumänien Premier Grindeanu kündigt Aufhebung von Korruptionsdekret an (Getty Images/AFP/A. Pungovschi)

PM Grindeanu stressed that the decree will "not take effect"

Calin Tariceanu, head of ALDE party - a junior partner of the ruling Social Democrat coalition said Saturday on private TV station Romania TV that the move came because "we have nothing to hide."

Romania's Constitutional Court is expected to rule next week on whether the measure was legal.

The decree called for decriminalizing abuse-of-power offenses for sums below 200,000 lei ($47,500; 44,200 euros). It also narrowed the definition of conflict of interest, making it legal for a public official to favor a business partner when deciding who should win a contract.

Grindeanu's leftwing government, in office for barely a month, also wants to free around 2,500 people from prison who are serving sentences of less than five years.

The prime minister said the measures were necessary to bring penal law into line with Romania's constitution and to reduce overcrowding in prisons. Critics, however, have said the real goal of the decree was to let off thousands of politicians and officials ensnared in anti-corruption drives, many of whom are members of the PSD.

The PSD returned to power after winning elections in December by promising to raise salaries and pensions in the European Union's second-poorest country.

rs/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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