Massive protests in the making for more than a month are due to take place in Romanian capital city Bucharest on Saturday evening. Demonstrations, gathering local people as well as protesters from around the country, are aimed against government plans to subdue the judiciary politically, to put an end to the fight against corruption, as well as a series of government measures including changes to the fiscal code, which are seen as burdening the economy.
- UPDATE 9.30 p.m.
The latest estimates say some 100,000 people attended the protests across the country, 70,000 in Bucharest.
- UPDATE 8.00 p.m.
Somewhere between 40,000-55,000 are estimated to have taken part in the first two hours of protests in Bucharest starting 6 p.m. on Saturday. Many thousands more attended protests in other cities across the country, including Iasi, Cluj, Sibiu, Timisoara. In Bucharest, incidents between protesters and gendarmes were reported in the first phase of the protest, before gendarmes dropped attempts to contain the march and check participants pouring into University Square.
The protest was announced after the governing coalition led by the Social Democratic Party (PSD) pushed a series of changes to the laws of justice in December and started procedures to change the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Codes. All these are seen by the opposition and large swathes of the population as attempts to put an end to the fight against corruption and to subdue the judiciary.
The protests come at the end of a week in which President Klaus Iohannis was forced to name a new PSD prime minister, Viorica Dancila, despite huge criticism that she is not up to the job and is just the hand of PSD leader Liviu Dragnea. Dragnea himself, who serves as House speaker, cannot become prime minister due to a conviction for electoral fraud and because he is facing other corruption-related inquiries.
Dancila replaced PM Mihai Tudose, also of the PSD, who had come at loggerheads with Dragnea and lost a fight to take over control of the party from him. Dancila is the third PM in less than a year, after Tudose and his predecessor, Sorin Grindeanu, who also lost his seat due to attempting to stand up to Dragnea.
The protest in Bucharest is aimed both against the changes affecting the judiciary and the fight against corruption and a series of changes to the fiscal code and other economic measures adopted by the PSD over the past year, seen as devastating for businesses and the economy.
People from across the country have announced their participation in the Bucharest march. A group of people from Cluj city in NW Romania, some 450 km away from Bucharest, arrived in Bucharest at noon of Saturday, after walking the whole distance between the cities in a journey that lasted more than a week.