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Massive protests in Romania over corruption ordinance

03 Feb 2017 | By Supriya

Bucharest, Romania's capital, witnessed one of the largest anti-government protests ever seen in the last few decades.

Nearly 300,000 people gathered outside government offices and rallies were taken out in several towns and cities.

Citizens are protesting because despite strong opposition, an 'emergency ordinance' was passed late on January 31, which decriminalizes corruption that protesters say will undo Romania's anti-corruption efforts of recent years.

In context: Romania sees largest ever anti-government protests

Romania

Romania is located in Southeastern Europe. Its capital is Bucharest which is the sixth largest city in Europe. Romania's population is approximately 19.94 million and it is the seventh most populated country of the European Union.

Mid-January 2017Social unrest in Romania

Two weeks ago, social unrest in Romania began to manifest when local newspapers suggested that the government was considering an emergency ordinance.

The ordinance proposed to decriminalize charges of abuse of power, corruption and pardon thousands of prisoners.

The people were alarmed that the ordinance would benefit allies of the government who were imprisoned on corruption charges.

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Cracking down on corruption

Since 2014, Romania's Anti-corruption Directorate had prosecuted 1,171 individuals and 34 organizations and companies for abuse of office: losses attributable to corruption were estimated at over $1 billion. Currently, the directorate is pursuing another 2,151 cases.
Impact of emergency ordinances

DetailsImpact of emergency ordinances

The ordinances when passed would severely undermine the corruption drive in European Union's poorest country.

It would effectively allow Romanian politicians a free rein as it decriminalized abuse of office if financial cost/damage was less than $48,000 (twice annual income of a Romanian.)

The ordinance would also set free hundreds of politicians that had been found guilty in recent years and were in prison.

03 Feb 2017Massive protests in Romania over corruption ordinance

Largest protests in 3 decades

Ongoing protests in Romania are the largest since the fall of communism in 1989. 150,000 protesters took out rallies and protests in Bucharest alone.
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Who said whatEU and allies alarmed over ordinance

European Commission head President Juncker said they were following situation in Romania "with great concern" and reiterated "fight against corruption needed to be advanced in Romania, not undone."

Key allies of Romania -US, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium- in an unprecedented move, issued a joint statement and called for ordinance to be repealed and strongly stressed the importance of fighting corruption.

09 Feb 2017Romania in crisis: President Klaus Iohannis

In an address to the Parliament, President Klaus Iohannis of Romania told the lawmakers that the country is in a "fully-fledged political crisis."

He added that majority of the Romanians now believed the country to be going in the wrong direction.

The president was referring to an emergency ordinance passed by Romania's government last week aimed at decriminalizing official corruption.