World View: Hundreds of Thousands of People Protest Left-Wing Corruption in Romania

Romanian riot police during a demonstration against controversial decrees to pardon corrupt politicians and decriminalise other offenses on February 1, 2017

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Hundreds of thousands of people protest left-wing corruption in Romania
  • Massive Romanian protests linked to 1989 ouster of violent dictator

Hundreds of thousands of people protest left-wing corruption in Romania

Around 150,000 people protested in Romania's capital city Bucharest on Wednesday (Al Jazeera)
Around 150,000 people protested in Romania’s capital city Bucharest on Wednesday (Al Jazeera)

Hundreds of thousands of people turned out on Wednesday in cities across Romania to protest a new decree by the center-left Social Democratic Party (PSD). The new decree permits corruption by government officials.

Although the PSD holds a parliamentary majority after winning an election last month, leaders of the party are currently facing corruption charges that bar them serving as ministers. In particular, PSD chairman in Liviu Dragnea would become prime minister, but in April 2016 he received a two-year suspended jail sentence for vote rigging.

The new decree would change the law so that Dragnea would be cleared of his suspended jail sentence, allowing him to become prime minister. The law would also free dozens of his left-wing cronies, such as Dan Voiculescu, currently serving 10 years for abuse of power and money laundering. Euro News and Reuters

Massive Romanian protests linked to 1989 ouster of violent dictator

The protests are the biggest since the 1989 revolution. At that time, the country was in the grip of a vicious Stalinist dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu. Few dared to protest because the Secret Police would jail, torture and kill them. However, a spontaneous protest of hundreds of thousands of people began to demand the ouster of Ceausescu, forcing him to try to flee with his wife Elena. They were quickly captured, tried, and then executed on Christmas Day 1989.

Since then, the government has been one of the most corrupt in the world, with the politicians governing the country having stolen as much as possible, with the help of people from the former communist party and the former secret police of Ceausescu’s reign.

When Romania joined the European Union in 2007, it was under the condition that Romania would institute severe reforms in the administration of justice and in government corruption. The European Commission has been closely monitoring Romania each year since then, to chart progress in judicial reform and the fight against corruption.

The most recent EC report, issued just two weeks ago, documented progress in many areas, but still concluded: “Corruption prevention is still weak and is not yet established as a core obligation of public administration.”

Romania’s government announced the new changes in the law just as the EC report was published. The new law is a major reversal of Romania’s programs to reduce corruption. Since Romania was admitted to the EU on the condition that judicial and government corruption be reduced to international norms, Romania’s membership in the EU might be in jeopardy, if it weren’t for the fact that EU leaders are more concerned in today’s post-Brexit world that the EU might fall apart anyway. Deutsche Welle and European Commission and Transparency International and The 1989 Romanian Revolution and the Fall of Ceausescu

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Romania, Liviu Dragnea, Social Democratic Party, PSD, Dan Voiculescu, Nicolae Ceausescu
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