Date: 22/1/2017



At least 20,000 Romanians demonstrated in the streets of Bucharest and other major cities Sunday evening, protesting the government’s plan to commute sentences for certain non-violent criminals.

The government, a coalition between the Social-Democrat Party (PSD) and the liberal group ALDE, say the measure is meant to solve overcrowding in prisons. But opposition parties criticize it as a way to allow corrupt politicians who have already been sentenced to go unpunished. The PSD leader, Liviu Dragnea, who received a two-year suspended jail sentence for his attempts to rig a referendum in 2012, is seen as one of the potential beneficiaries.

Sunday’s protests follow smaller ones in Bucharest and other major cities on Wednesday and Thursday.

The new government has been in place for less than a month, following parliamentary elections in December in which PSD won a landslide victory on promises to increase wages and pensions and lower taxes. Opposition politicians were quick to point out that the governing program proposed by the PSD before the elections did not include a measure to commute prison sentences.

The Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, who hails from the National Liberal Party, the main opposition party, joined the crowds in Bucharest. He said he came out to show his indignation over a “clique of politicians with criminal problems” who want to weaken the rule of law. On Friday, he called on the government to shelve the draft decree.

The PSD boss Dragnea said that the president’s attendance at an anti-government protest was the beginning of a coup. “The president was an outlaw today, seeking personal political advantages and demanding constitutional absurdities,” Dragnea wrote on Facebook, fresh from a trip to America to attend U.S. President Donald Trump’s inauguration. He said he supported anti-corruption actions that are against “the real corruption,” without explaining what that was.

The previous PSD-led government resigned in November 2015 after massive street protests following a deadly Bucharest nightclub fire in which more than 60 people died. Protesters accused the authorities of turning a blind eye to fire regulations at the time in exchange for kickbacks.

On Friday night, another famous club was destroyed by fire. Local authorities said the Bucharest club operated illegally, but one of the owners disputed that claim. There were no fatalities following Friday’s fire, but tens of people ended up in the hospital suffering from smoke intoxication and one woman remains in a coma.

The Romanian government did not address the protests in a statement it released Sunday about a meeting between Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu, also back from Trump’s inauguration, and two cabinet members who briefed him on the nightclub fire.



Source: http://www.politico. eu/article/romanians-protest- government-plan-to-commute- sentences/