Romania repeals graft decree amid further protests

BUCHAREST • Romania's government yesterday repealed a decree decriminalising some graft offences, a government source said, as protesters gathered for a sixth day of protests over the contentious corruption legislation.

"The decree was scrapped," a government official told Reuters, adding that an official statement would be released soon.

Late on Saturday, the government had pledged to repeal the decree widely seen as easing the penalties for corruption that sparked the biggest protests since 1989, saying it would meet to do so yesterday.

But demonstrators were not convinced. "Today we are going to break new records," said one protester, who gave his name only as Florian, 40, as he distributed free pretzels and tea at Victory Square, the epicentre of the protests.

By midday yesterday, several hundred people could be seen gathering in the square but the crowd was expected to swell with thousands arriving on buses from outside the capital.

On Saturday, an estimated 330,000 people demonstrated across the nation, TV reports said, in what was the biggest turnout since the toppling of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989.

The governing party, which won a decisive victory in December, assumed office last month and quickly proposed a law to pardon those serving sentences of five years or less for certain crimes, a move the party said was intended to ease prison overcrowding.

It was unclear whether Liviu Dragnea, president of the ruling Social Democratic Party, would be in line for such a pardon, which would make him eligible again to be prime minister. He is currently ineligible to serve as prime minister because he was convicted last year of electoral fraud, an offence for which he got a two-year suspended sentence.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 06, 2017, with the headline 'Romania repeals graft decree amid further protests'. Print Edition | Subscribe