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Romanians protest after anti-corruption laws loosened

By Breeda Bennett-Jones
Nation & World Editor

As snow fell and chants rang out across University Square the night of Jan. 20, Romania’s citizens remained passionate in the fight against growing corruption in Eastern Europe. Across the country, crowds gathered in towns and cities to protest revisions to Romania’s anti-corruption laws, according to The New York Times.

Protesters in Bucharest brandish signs and flags. (AP Photo)

Protests occurred throughout the country, but most were in Bucharest’s University Square, according to The Guardian. Almost 50,000 people joined in the flag waving, whistle blowing and anthem singing.

The Romanian Parliament passed legislation in December that critics and citizens alike say will distance Romania from Europe. One amendment in particular prohibited the use of audio and video recordings as evidence, according to The Washington Post.

The legislation also includes amendments to the judicial system and the prosecution process for corruption crimes, according to The New York Times.

One protester named Tiberiu Calinescu expressed his discontent for the Romanian government as he carried his four-month-old daughter, according to The Washington Post.

“I have come here for the future of my daughter. I want to live in a Romania that is civilized and close to European standards,” Calinescu said.

Some protesters called for early government elections and an overhaul of the judicial system in addition to the withdrawal of the bills, according to The New York Times.

Viorica Dancila, the newly elected Romanian Prime Minister, is among the handful of top politicians who agree with the protesters. Dancila specifically supports an overhaul of the judicial system, according to The Washington Post.

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis is also critical of the amendments, according to The New York Times. On the night before the protests, he criticized an amendment concerning the right of government officials to own businesses in a statement to the Constitutional Court. The amendment “diminished the standards of integrity” government officials are expected to uphold, according to the statement.

Smaller protests occurred in cities including Cluj, Timisoara and Constanta, according to The Washington Post.

Just under one year ago, a quarter of a million protesters took to the streets of Bucharest to pressure the government to withdraw an ordinance that loosened anti-corruption laws, according The New York Times. The protests were successful, and the ordinance was voted down.

“I came out today because I have two little boys and they deserve a better life in this European country,” a protester named Florentina Caval told The Guardian.

The left-wing Parliament faces pressure against the bills from its citizenry, Iohannis, economic experts, the European Commission and the U.S. government, according to The Guardian.


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