(CIVICUS Monitor) As previously reported on the CIVICUS Monitor, the government’s attempts to weaken anti-corruption legislation triggered numerous mass protests in Bucharest and other major cities across the country in 2017. The proposed legal changes have caused concern at home, as well as in the European Unionand United States. This series of mass protests has continued since the last Monitor update.
When Romania's govt tried to relax anti-corruption laws in February, over 500,000 citizens took to the streets – the biggest protests since the fall of Ceaușescu.
Will they do it again, with the independence of the courts under threat? https://t.co/H1hwMnwYRW
— Julie Laumann (@Otpor17) December 31, 2017
On 26th November 2017, around 40 civil society organisations and two of the biggest union confederations joined forces for a demonstration in Bucharest’s Victoriei Square. Over 15,000 people participated in the event. A statement by the organisers declared that the protest had been called due to:
“The political confiscation of the justice system, the fact that the state was taken over by a political mafia that weakens anti-corruption legislation to escape criminal liability, the Government’s political and institutional war against civil society, the attacks of the parliamentary majority against NATO and EU allies, the fiscal chaos and the accelerated depreciation of the local currency, the rising prices and the budget deficit [which] will de facto throw Romania out of the European Union and NATO”.
Similar mass events took place in Bucharest on 10th December and 17th December, in addition to smaller events held in the days before and after. Thousands also took to the streets in other Romanian cities throughout December.
There were reports of minor altercations, but police generally respected the freedom of peaceful assembly. Bucharest City Hall, however, continued its attempts to restrict this freedom through administrative measures. Those measures included the planning of a Christmas market on Victoriei Square, which has been the main staging point for anti-corruption protests since 2017. This would have meant that no protest could be held in front of the Romanian Parliament in the month of December. Ultimately, however, City Hall scrapped its plans.
A meeting between civil society representatives and Romanian Prime Minister Mihai Tudose to discuss the planned legal changes was deemed unsatisfactory by civil society groups. After the meeting, Mihai Politeanu, an activist with the Initiativa Romania NGO, told Romania-Insider.com that:
“Romania is at a moment of major slippage from democratic standards and rule of law standards and the prime minister must take over his responsibilities and use institutional leverage to halt these major slippages”.
Further street demonstrations are therefore likely in the near future, including a large protest planned for 20th January.
#Romania now: Over 20,000 Romanians protesting in Bucharest in support of the #RuleOfLaw and against weakening of the justice system. Other thousands protesting in the big cities and in the diaspora. pic.twitter.com/hrjqna3wXz
— Paul Ivan (@paul2ivan) January 20, 2018
Fresh protests in #Romania in support of justice and #RuleOfLaw. People have traveled from all over the country to be in Bucharest tonight. Time to listen – these successive failing governments need to go.
Foto: Dan Mihai Balanescu pic.twitter.com/xhjYQVvWFB
— Sabina Ciofu (@SabinaCiofu) January 20, 2018
Romanians blindfold themselves to protest against corruption in Bucharest. Euronews' Hans Von der Brelie joined demonstrators on their march through the capital yesterday —> https://t.co/drwejxIzmv #REZIST #corruption #Romania
Photo credit: Alexandru Socol pic.twitter.com/ZmcULZhRxY
— euronews (@euronews) January 21, 2018
One young protester clearly wasn't perturbed by the snow as Romanians marched against corruption in Bucharest. Euronews' Hans Von der Brelie joined demonstrators on their march —> https://t.co/drwejxIzmv #REZIST #corruption #Romania pic.twitter.com/c66cIWbJmg
— euronews (@euronews) January 20, 2018
Originally published on Civicus Monitor
Featured image by Andreea Alexandru /Mediafax Foto