Following the largest protests in decades, the Romanian government has decided to withdraw a decree that decriminalizes grant offences and has backed down on a controversial plan to water down anti-corruption laws.
The Romanian government’s decision to withdraw a decree that decriminalizes minor corruption offences and to back out of a controversial plan to reduce the effectiveness of anti-corruption laws is a consequence of mass protests held all across the country over five days in which some reports claim over 600,000 protestors took to the streets nationally.
The decree decriminalized conflict of interest, work negligence and abuse of power cases in which the financial damage is lower than 200,000 lei.
A press conference, addressed by the Prime Minister of Romania, Sorin Grindeanu to announce that the government would assemble on Sunday to annul the emergency decree that has raised worries of a retreat in the battle against corruption. Sorin Grindeanu, who has been in office for less than a month, repealed the order on Sunday.
He also added, “I do not want to divide Romania. It can’t be divided in two.”
The announcement about the contentious decree that decriminalizes abuse of power offences of sums up to 200,000 lei (~$47,500), was made after thousands protested for five consecutive days.
David Chater, reporting the from the demonstration capital, Bucharest, for Al Jazeera, said “People power on the street has succeeded in pushing the government into making these concessions. There is going to be a massive celebration here, instead of another heated protest.”
The decree was due to be enforced on February 10, resulting in massive protests all over the country. Rallies of this scale were seen last during the fall of the communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu in the year 1989.
Demonstrators started another noisy march on Saturday afternoon in central Bucharest, blowing vuvuzela horns in the national colors and whistles, heading for the parliament to form a human chain there.
“At some point, we didn’t think it would be possible to convince the government to back down on the proposal, but fortunately not even they can be that irrational as to ignore the hundreds of thousands of people protesting,” demonstrator Claudiu Craciun said.
“In such a young democracy and with such a history, old habits of putting up with whatever is being thrown at you are hard to break. But 27 years of corruption are enough,” says Adrei, 32, from Buzău in the east of Romania.
2,500 prisoners on short sentences would be freed by a separate bill to go before parliament.
Critics were afraid of a setback for a year-long battle against corruption, labeling the measures as a brazenly transparent effort by the government to free several corrupt officials who were involved in a number of scandals.
Mihai Politeanu, founder of the Initiative Romania NGO said that the decriminalization would have proved to be “a disaster for Romania’s future” and would take it “back to the early 1990s” when oligarchs and corruption overtook the nation.