Romania’s Social-Democratic leader signals withdrawal in face of massive street protests

Liviu Dragnea - PSD leader
Liviu Dragnea - PSD leader

Liviu Dragnea, the leader of Romania’s Social Democratic Party (PSD), said on Saturday that the emergency decree that changes the Criminal Code may be revoked, if the Government also agrees, to defuse a massive street conflict.

This is Dragnea’s first step back after four days of massive but peaceful protests in Bucharest and all over Romania against the Government’s intention to weaken the fight against corruption. However, the PSD leader says he is willing to do this in order to prevent potential confrontations in Bucharest between the anti-Government protesters and his party’s supporters.

“I can say that the PSD members and sympathizers can no longer be held in check, they want to go to the streets and express their profound disapproval to the Soros-inspired movement that we are now witnessing. The party is organizing on its own and I feel that I can no longer hold in check, from the center, the pressure of the organizations all over the country, which can bring almost a million people on Bucharest’s streets,” Dragnea said for local publication

He added that, being a responsible person, he could not stand and watch how Romania is broken because of “President Iohannis’ irresponsibility” and that he would propose to the Prime Minister and the Government coalition partners from ALDE to find a solution for ending this situation.

“I will propose a solution to end the conflict related to the emergency ordinance that I hope the Prime Minister will accept. We can even speak about revoking the ordinance, if the Prime Minister accepts. We hope that this will also convince our members and sympathizers not to go to the streets and escalate the tension. I don’t want a conflict to pit Romanians against Romanians and break Romania in two,” he added.

The PSD leader, who is also the leader of the parliamentary majority made of PSD and ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats), and has a firm grip on the Government led by Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu, has tried to distance himself from the emergency ordinance on justice letting justice minister Florin Iordache and PM Sorin Grindeanu take responsibility for it.

The Government unexpectedly adopted the ordinance on Tuesday evening, in a cabinet meeting that had only one thing on the agenda: the budget for 2017. After the justice minister announced that the ordinance was adopted, some 15,000 people gathered in Bucharest for a spontaneous protests in front of the Government’s headquarters in Victoriei Square.

Reactions to the ordinance started pouring in: President Iohannis called it a “blow to the rule of law” in Romania, the top prosecutors explained that it would weaken the anticorruption fight in Romania, the Opposition filed a no-confidence motion against the Government, and Romania’s international partners expressed their concerns related to the future of the anticorruption fight in the country.

On Wednesday evening, almost 150,000 people protested in Bucharest’s Victoriei Square and more than 300,000 all over Romania, this being the biggest protest the country has seen in almost 25 years. The internal and international reactions became more powerful, calling on the Romanian Government to reconsider its decision.

Despite all the protests and negative reactions, the PSD leaders voted on Thursday to continue supporting the Government and its ordinance. Liviu Dragnea held a press conference on Thursday afternoon, in which he only marginally tackled the ordinance issue. Instead, he accused President Iohannis of instigating people against the Government and said that the people who protested were misinformed and manipulated. Then he let Prime Minister Grindeanu talk about all of his Government’s generous decisions to raise salaries, pensions, and cut taxes. Only when the journalists asked what PSD and the Government planned to do about the ordinance, the Prime Minister said his Government wouldn’t revoke it.

Romanians continued their protests on Thursday and Friday, when close to 300,000 people were again in the streets demonstrating peacefully. The highlight of Friday’s protest was when more than 120,000 people in Bucharest sang the national anthem.

Meanwhile, Romania’s Ombudsman Victor Ciorbea attacked the ordinance at the Constitutional Court and the Orthodox Church launched a powerful message that the fight against corruption should continue.


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