For several weeks in early February 2017, dozens of Romanian cities were rocked by the biggest protests in the country’s recent democratic history. Even small towns, usually dormant, had their own protesters present in the central squares. The peak protests were in Bucharest, with some 200,000 people taking the streets.
In a political system increasingly out of tune with regular citizens, the massive mobilisation was triggered by the government passing an Emergency Ordinance which proposed a removal of penalties for the graft offences usually committed by local and central party representatives while in public office. Due to public pressure, the justice minister resigned and the government eventually withdrew it. This issue was only a single focal point of conflict and contention within the larger corruption/anti-corruption agenda which is becoming central to Romanian politics. It was also a key event in an international political context in which different strands of illiberal action converge toward disbanding the post ’89 European order.
The events are the Romanian version of a wider struggle for democracy and cosmopolitanism which has take different forms in the majority of countries on the continent and beyond. If the protests had failed, in terms of mobilisation and outcomes, Romania would have been plunged into a limited democracy state, in which the dominant party uses its electoral and administrative force to erode the rule of law, silence the political and civic opposition, and upset the fragile democratic balance in the country.
Read the rest of the article on the Green European Journal website here:
Credit foto: Vlad Petri