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Hundreds of thousands protests in Romanian cities

04 February 2017

This report contains material from Reuters and the Associated Press.

Romania's Ombudsman Victor Ciorbea filed a complaint to the Constitutional Court against the government for issuing an emergency decree without having a valid reason.

European Commission Vice President Frank Timmermans called on the Romanian government to "urgently reconsider" the decree on Thursday, warning it could affect the amount of funding Romania receives from the EU.

Critics say the decree will roll back progress made against corruption in Romania since it joined the European Union in 2007. At least one person was detained and a newspaper kiosk was set on fire.

Between 200,000 and 300,000 demonstrators were reported to have turned out. An unspecified number of other officers sustained light injuries.

The ordinance was published in the official government monitor at 3 a.m. Wednesday. The coalition government has been in office for less than a month and the ordinance benefits its allies and Romanian officials facing corruption charges.

Dan Brett, an associate professor at the Open University, said: 'It shows that the government is willing to use backdoor methods with no scrutiny or checks and balances in order to protect and promote itself'.

There were protests in a half dozen cities around Romania, with people calling for the resignation of the government. Dragnea also called Iohannis "the moral author" of the sporadic violence that broke out late Wednesday between police and protesters. But the drive proved unpopular with politicians.

It's the third rally in Bucharest protesting against a decree decriminalising some forms of corruption, with the country's new socialist Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu refusing to repeal the controversial measure.

Liviu Dragnea - the president of the Social Democrat Party, which recently took power - is himself under investigation for abuse of power and had also previously received a two-year suspended sentence for an elections offense.

Dragnea, 54, is now on trial for alleged abuse of power involving 24,000 euros.

The government insists that the measure was introduced to combat overcrowding in prisons.

The Social Democrats face the largest backlash since the 1989 uprising that ousted dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. "The fight against corruption needs to be advanced, not undone", they said.

Anti-graft prosecutors are working on more than 2,000 abuse-of-office cases. The Commission has been monitoring Romania's progress in its fight against corruption under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM), which targets Romania and Bulgaria's corruption problems, as well as the latter's organized crime's situation.

Hundreds of thousands protests in Romanian cities