Thousands of Romanians have continued anti-government rallies for the 11th straight nights in capital Bucharest, demanding the ouster of President Klaus Iohannis over a bid to decriminalize official corruption.
Crowds of people converged outside the presidential palace on Friday, urging Iohannis to quit over allegations that he is now trying to associate himself with the anti-corruption movement in a bid to inspire greater support among his electorate.
The latest protest action came despite withdrawal of a scandalous government decree that would have diluted graft laws, decriminalizing many cases of official corruption, including that of the ruling party leader.
The eastern European nation is ranked among the most corrupt in the European Union.
Romanian Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu announced last Saturday that he would repeal his controversial ordinance, which many inside and outside the EU country said would shield dozens of politicians from prosecution for corruption.
“We’ll hold an extraordinary meeting on Sunday to repeal the decree, withdraw, cancel it … you understand, and find a legal way to make sure it does not take effect,” Grindeanu said.
The prime minister stated that he did not want to further divide the country, which he said was “broken in two.”
Protesters, however, reiterated the emerging public notion that measures adopted by the government last week in response to massive protest rallies were not adequate. They made it clear that people could no longer trust the government that rose to power last December.
Earlier in the week, Justice Minister Florin Iordache stepped down following mass anti-government protest rallies over the corruption decree.
The decree, issued on January 31, provoked massive, persistent and sometime violent protest rallies with hundreds of thousands of protesters descending on Bucharest’s Victory Square for 10 days in a row.
The official ordinance would have facilitated the decriminalization of abuse-of-power offences that involve sums of money less than 200,000 lei, which is equivalent to €44,475 ($48,000).
Over the past three years, Romania has had 1,170 official abuse of power cases, amounting to nearly one billion euros worth of damage, according to Chief of Anti-corruption Directorate Laura Codruta Kovesi.