The Romanian Protest Marathon

Romania three weeks into anti-corruption protests

22 days have passed since the first in a series of  protests took place in Romania. Citizens of the capital Bucharest and of other major cities have been fighting the winter cold, snow and rain  every day for longer than three weeks now, defending a legal system and a society with zero tolerance of corruption. It all started with an emergency ordinance passed by the Government on 31st January, which was meant to decriminalise offences involving sums of less than 200,000 lei, equivalent to approximately €44,000. Although the Prime Minister finally agreed to withdraw the decree following the first week of protests, the public unrest did not settle, and the protests continued.

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The ordinance had sparked outrage among Romanians ever since the newly appointed Government drafted it, with the alleged purpose of improving the living conditions in the country’s overcrowded prisons. However, as numerous members of the ruling party and influential people from within its circles have either been already convicted or are now tried for corruption offences, it was mostly believed that the document had a completely different aim. Prior to 31st January, President Klaus Iohannis, currently the major force of opposition in Romania, attended a meeting of the Government, in this way preventing the cabinet from passing the decree that very day. However, the Government persisted and adopted the ordinance not long after that, during a meeting which took place at night, thus further fuelling the furious reaction of the citizens.

emergency ordinance = Noterlass

to decriminalise = entkriminalisieren

offences = Straftaten

to withdraw = zurückziehen

decree = Erlass

public unrest = öffentliche Unruhen

to spark outrage = Empörung hervorrufen

to appoint = einsetzen

to draft = entwerfen

alleged = angeblich

overcrowded = überfüllt

ruling party = Regierungspartei

to convict = verurteilen

to try sb for sth = jdn für etw vor Gericht stellen

to persist = bestehen bleiben

to fuel = schüren

furious = wütend

After the announcement of the ordinance’s withdrawal, the protesters, who had lost any trust in their government and doubted that the decree would actually be abrogated, did not stop protesting in Romania’s main cities. Although they initially targeted the emergency ordinance decriminalising corruption offences, the mass demonstrations gradually changed their focus towards demands for the resignation of the Minister of Justice and ultimately for that of the entire Government. The Minister of Justice resigned on 9th February, but the cabinet did not.

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With the Government showing no intention of stepping down, the protests continue into their fourth week. During all this time, besides the unfavourable weather conditions, the protesters have also been facing direct attacks and offences from members of the ruling party circles through both social media and privately owned television channels, where different scenarios claiming the manipulation of the demonstrators by foreign forces have been promoted. Furthermore, the electorate of the ruling party has in the meantime started its own protests against Romania’s President.

to doubt that sth will happen = daran zweifeln, dass etw geschehen wird

to abrogate sth = etw aufheben

to target sth = etw anvisieren

demands = Ansprüche

resignation = Rücktritt

to step down = zurücktreten

unfavourable = ungünstig

to claim = behaupten

to promote = fördern

electorate = Wählerschaft

Although the anti-governmental protests do not see hundreds of thousands of attendants anymore, as they did in their first week (with a record of 600,000 participants in the entire country on Sunday, 5th February), groups of people continue to gather in front of the Government building every day. These ongoing protests have been showing a civic engagement of the Romanian people only comparable to that which brought about the fall of the communist regime through the Revolution of 1989. Citizens from all walks of life have been tirelessly coming together to defend the fight against corruption, which had been showing significant progress in the last few years prior to the current Government’s attempts to weaken it. Throughout the weeks of protests, the demonstrators have been supporting each other with free tea, sandwiches and fruit, while the gendarmes observing the events were offered flowers as a sign of appreciation and a symbol of peaceful cooperation. Whether or not their immediate demand, namely the resignation of the government, will be answered to, the protesters have obtained the President’s promise of a national referendum on the fight against corruption, and, most importantly, a sense of unity and responsibility in defending the higher values that they want for their state and its people.

to gather = sich versammeln

ongoing = fortlaufend

civic engagement = bürgerschaftliches Engagement

to bring about = hervorrufen

from all walks of life = aus allen Berufen

tirelessly = unermüdlich

to weaken = angreifen

appreciation = Anerkennung

referendum = Abstimmung

values = Werte

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