Thousands of people took to the streets of Bucharest and other major Romanian cities on Sunday evening to protest a series of planned governmental measures aimed at slowing down the fight against corruption and at protecting people investigated under graft charges. President Klaus Iohannis and some opposition politicians joined the crowds in Bucharest, days after similar protests took place after the government tried to pass the measures secretly.
As protesters marched through downtown Bucharest, their number rose to 20-30,000, according to various estimates.
More than 15,000 people showed up at the protest in downtown Bucharest early evening, chanting against government plans and against the governing party, the Social Democrats (PSD) and its leader Liviu Dragnea. Many others were expected to attend similar protests in other major cities.
Shortly after showing up among protesters, President Iohannis stated they were right to feel angry as "a gang of politicians with criminal issues wants to change the legislation and weaken the state of law".
Dragnea himself, who already received a suspended sentence for electoral fraud and is risks another in a separate corruption case, is seen as a main potential beneficiary of proposed government decisions aimed at changing anti-graft legislation.
Arguing among others that Romanian penitentiaries are too crowded, the government proposes a series of legal changes which, among others would pardon sentenced criminals and people currently under investigation for certain crimes. Other changes would raise serious obstacles for prosecutors investigating acts of corruption. The changes would greatly help many corrupt business people and politicians who have been targeted by a major anti-graft campaign for the past several years.
Liviu Dragnea, whose party took over government early this year following its victory in general elections in December, could not stand for prime minister because of his suspended sentence and because of another corruption case he is involved with. He has made sure everybody understood that PM Sorin Grindeanu was his own interface and that he himself was, in fact, in charge with leading the government.
The proposed changes would help him get rid of both issues.
The government planned to pass them last week, by means of emergency ordinances which had not been previously announced. That was prevented with a last minute intervention from President Iohannis, who showed up at the government session where the ordinances were expected to be discussed.
But government officials have stated they would not drop their plans. They issued the proposed documents for public consultation, which is due to end in the following days.