Saturday 22 July 2017

Romanian government repeals law that goes easy on corruption following protests

A girl holds a banner that reads:
A girl holds a banner that reads: "We have the right to justice!" during a protest in Bucharest, Romania (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Romania's government has repealed an emergency decree that decriminalises some official misconduct following days of mass protests and condemnation from abroad.

The government led by Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu originally approved the plan on Wednesday, with no input from Parliament.

After repealing the decree on Sunday, Grindeanu asked the justice minister to prepare a draft law to be sent to Parliament for debate and approval.

The centre-left Social Democratic Party has a parliamentary majority with a junior partner. President Klaus Iohannis then needs to sign off on the legislation.

The country's Constitutional Court is still scheduled to rule on the legality of the original decree. It decriminalised official misconduct if the funds involved were worth less than 200,000 lei (£38,000), which critics said would just encourage officials to steal on the job up to that point.

Grindeanu said the draft should respect the court's rulings, European directives and Romania's criminal code.

Protesters demonstrated over the ordinance for a sixth day on Sunday in the capital, Bucharest. The vast majority have expressed anger that the measure watered down the country's fight against corrupt officials, including the leader of the ruling Social Democrats' party.

For the first time, several hundred people rallied on Sunday in support of the government outside the presidential palace.

In an abrupt about-face, Grindeanu said on Saturday he would repeal the decree at an emergency meeting because he didn't want to "divide Romania ... Romania in this moment seems broken in two".

Liviu Dragnea, head of the ruling Social Democrats, is one of those who could have benefited from the decree. He is banned by law from serving as prime minister because he was handed a two-year prison sentence in April 2016 for vote-rigging.

AP

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