Romanian minister resigns after huge anti-graft protest

Crowds wave Romanian flags outside the government headquarters during a protest in Bucharest Romania early Wednesday Feb. 1 2017. Romania's government

Romania: Thousands protest as govt relaxes corruption law

Several protesters and police officers suffered minor injuries in the violence, largely blamed on football hooligans.

Last night saw the second consecutive night of civil unrest in towns and cities across Romania, with protesters and police clashing over a controversial law on government corruption. Others will take place tonight.

Leaders of the centre-left Social Democratic Party and the junior Alliance of Democratic Liberals, which form the current coalition government, both face corruption charges that bar them from serving as ministers.

Critics say the order, which decriminalises misconduct if the funds involved are less than 200,000 lei ($47,800), will help government officials facing corruption charges stay out of prison, clear their records and even encourage more corruption whilst in office.

Romania's top judicial watchdog, the Superior Magistrates' Council (CSM), earlier in the day filed a constitutional court challenge to the decree unveiled by the new Social Democrat government of Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu. In the past two years, they've sent more than 1,000 people to trial, seeking to recover damages in excess of 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion). This one would have opened the way to releasing any inmate serving up to six years in prison for non-violent crimes - which would have included most of those serving time for corruption.

Grindeanu said on Thursday night, at the end of a meeting of the Social Democratic Party leadership, that he would not withdraw Tuesday's decree to modify the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code.

The decree received widespread condemnation.

Protests erupted in cities around the country after the emergency pardon plan was made public last month and chief anti-corruption prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi said it "will render the anti-corruption fight irrelevant".

In its joint statement, the EU Commission forewarns Romania against backtracking and states that it will thoroughly analyse the situation in the country, asserting that "the fight against corruption needs to be advanced, not undone". The country received more than 6.5 billion euros in European Union funding in 2015.

That same evening, soon after the government passed the ordinance, thousands of people spontaneously took the streets and protested it. The atmosphere was one of anger against the government, but also of solidarity and hope for change.

Some demonstrators hurled bottles, firecrackers and stones at security forces, who responded by firing tear gas. 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.

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