BUCHAREST — Despite the sweltering heat and the start of a long weekend, groups of hardcore demonstrators gathered again outside the government building in Bucharest for a sixth night in a row on August 15.
A couple of hundred people demanding the resignation of Romania’s leftist government, which they accuse of corruption and attacks on the rule of law, chanted slogans against the government and the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD), accompanied by the noise of vuvuzelas and monitored by regular police.
Unlike the previous couple of nights, and despite the smaller number of protesters, a pair of dark-clothed riot police were also standing guard on the sides of Victoria Square, and refused to allow people to take their pictures.
The government has decreed a five-day vacation starting on August 15, and although the decision was made months ago, some of the protesters in the square vented furiously against the decision, calling it a bribe by the government for state employees.
Some protesters told RFE/RL that they had jobs in the private sector and would keep going to work every day during the short vacation. But they said they would still keep coming to the protest every evening after work.
Meanwhile, European Parliament member Guy Verhofstadt who is the Leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) which includes the homonymous ALDE of Romania, the junior coalition partner of PSD, said in a Facebook post that "the right to protest and freedom of assembly may never be restricted if it takes place in a peaceful manner."
Verhofstadt added that it was ‘"essential that Romania stays on the path of reform and progressive policies especially ahead of its stint as Presidency in office of the European Union." Bucharest will take over the EU rotating presidency in January.
After winning power in 2016, the PSD attempted to decriminalize several corruption offenses through an emergency decree, leading to thousands of Romanians taking to the streets in protest and forcing the party to back down.
President Klaus Iohannis, a critic of the left-wing government, has been at loggerheads with the PSD, accusing it of attempting to weaken the fight against corruption, putting pressure on the judicial system, and of implementing bad fiscal policies.
Iohannis, the European Commission, and the U.S. State Department criticized the proposed changes to judicial legislation, saying they could derail the rule of law.
Romania is one the poorest members of the European Union, with an average monthly wage of about 520 euros ($590).
It is also one of the EU countries most plagued by corruption and has seen frequent protests in the past year and a half.
Source: Radio Free Europe