Following widespread demonstrations across Romania, the country’s prime minister called Saturday for the repeal of a decree decriminalizing official misconduct.
“Tomorrow [Sunday], we will hold a government [cabinet] meeting to repeal this decree,” Sorin Grindeanu said in a televised statement Saturday evening. “I do not want to divide Romania. It can’t be divided in two.”
The decision came in response to the largest protests to occur in the country since the fall of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989, with more than 140,000 people demonstrating since the decree was announced Wednesday. The prime minister had said earlier in the week that he would not repeal the order.
One of the strongest defenders of the decree, ruling Social Democratic Party leader Liviu Dragnea, faces a corruption charge himself. But Dragnea assured protesters that the decree would not “free corrupt people.”
The ordinance decriminalizes official misconduct if the funds involved are less than $47,800. Critics voiced concerns that it would allow corrupt politicians to be freed and encourage those in office to steal on the job.
In a joint statement released earlier this week, the U.S., Germany, Canada, Finland, the Netherlands and France said Romania’s government had undermined “progress on rule of law and the fight against corruption over the past 10 years.”