Tuesday 20 March 2018

Romanian government will not quit despite mass protests

People take part in a protest in Bucharest (AP)
People take part in a protest in Bucharest (AP)

Romania's prime minister said the ruling coalition will not resign despite mass demonstrations against a measure which would ease up on corruption.

There are signs, however, that the centre-left government may not push ahead immediately with its attempt to decriminalise official misconduct, which ignited the protests.

Prime minister Sorin Grindeanu acknowledged that "the act had led to division", and suggested he may sack the justice minister later this week.

Unrest is continuing, with hundreds of government supporters massing outside the presidential palace in the Romanian capital, Bucharest, blaming president Klaus Iohannis for the crisis.

The president has strongly opposed the measure.

Elsewhere, protesters began gathering outside the government offices for the seventh consecutive evening in Victory Square, the site of the biggest protests Romania has had since communism was overthrown in 1989.

Social Democratic chairman Liviu Dragnea emerged from a meeting with governing partners saying that "we unreservedly expressed our support for the government ... and the prime minister".

On Sunday, the government backed down following six days of street protests over an emergency ordinance that would decriminalise abuse in office by officials if the amount involved was less than about 48,500 dollars (£38,865).

It plans to introduce another version of the law in parliament, where it has a majority.

However, in a sign of second thoughts, justice minister Florin Iordache later said in a statement he was "not preoccupied" with drawing up a draft law.

"Currently, the justice minister is focusing on the decisions published by the Constitutional Court ... which will be analysed in the near future," the statement said.

The Constitutional Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of the decriminalising proposal later this week.

Mr Dragnea, the major power broker in the government, is banned from being prime minister because of his conviction in April 2016 for vote rigging.

Press Association

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