Protests Expose Deep Rift in Romanian Society

Romania's Social Democrat-led government has survived a parliamentary vote of no-confidence after the country witnessed its largest protests in decades over a corruption decree. However, PSD leader Liviu Dragnea, and ALDE president Calin Popescu Tariceanu, stayed.

Diaspora Romanians are also staging rallies, with 2000 taking to the streets in London and 1500 in Brussels, according to the Romania Insider.

Despite the crisis, Iohannis said Romania didn't need early elections, a view the government shares.

"From my point of view, the government will from now on act in full transparency and on the basis of dialogue", said Grindeanu. The crowds have moved beyond demanding the government cancel the specific changes to the decree that waters down ant-corruption measures and on the night of January 5 were demanding the ousting of the government that was democratically elected in December, encouraged by what seems to be their first victory.

Others are calling on this government to resign, arguing that in their short time in power, the PSD has shown itself to be interested only in protecting its members and leaders, not working for ordinary Romanians.

Every night for the past week people across Romania have protested against an emergency order on corruption issued by the Social Democrat-led government that was regarded as self-serving.

"The repeal of the decree and the possible sacking of a minister is too little", Iohannis told lawmakers in Bucharest. He is now serving as president under a second PSD government, headed by Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu. The ordinance, which decriminalized some corruption offences, has raised loads of critics from President Klaus Iohannis, representatives of the justice system, business organizations, and Romania's foreign partners, who saw it as an attempt to undermine the country's fight against corruption and to clear the criminal records of some local politicians. In an nearly week-long protest, the general public was demanding for justice and the resignation of those responsible for issuing the order.

This, he said, would be the "question and the purpose" of a referendum, which would "really find out the will of the Romanian people".

The Romanian government is also facing a no-confidence vote filed by the opposition Liberals and Save Romania Union.

"You've won, now govern and legislate - but not at any price".

But trouble is far from over, even after the cabinet on Sunday scrapped the controversial decree that decriminalised official misconduct after five days of nationwide protests.

Dragnea, the main power broker behind the government, expressed disappointment Iohannis did not deliver a "speech of unity", and said "he should leave the government alone, to govern".

  • Latoya Cobb