Critics fear that emergency law could erode government accountability and threaten widely praised anti-corruption fight
Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in Romania to protest against an emergency ordinance passed on Tuesday night that pardons thousands of prisoners and decriminalises some offences.
“I don’t normally protest but I just felt such a sense of rage,” said Alexandra Boeriu, a 35-year-old NGO worker who protested outside the main government building in Bucharest. “I was young, but I did live through communism and I know what this is. I don’t want this for my kids. There are a lot of people protesting who want to have a future in this country. It feels like someone has died.”
People in the Romanian capital demonstrate against the ordinance. Photograph: Daniel Mihailescu/AFP/Getty Images
Critics of the ordinance, introduced by a government that won parliamentary elections in December, say it could reverse an anti-corruption fight in Romania that has drawn widespread praise internationally. Additional laws could be issued in the coming days, further eroding ministers’ accountability, according to the government’s opponents.
In a post on Facebook, the Romanian president, Klaus Iohannis, who has opposed the emergency ordinance and who last month joined protesters on the streets, wrote: “Today is a day of mourning for the rule of law.”
News of the ordinance passing broke at about 10pm local time, and by midnight local media estimated that 12,000 people were demonstrating in Bucharest and 10,000 in other cities across the country, despite freezing temperatures. There were shouts of “Thieves” and “You won’t get away with it.”