Romania Protests Continue as Govt Survives Impeachment Vote

Opposition supporters and civil society groups are keeping up the pressure on Romania’s ruling Social Democratic Party, despite the government's survival on Thursday of an impeachment vote in parliament.
Protesters in front of the Parliament on Thursday, during the impeachment motion. Photo: George Calin/Inquam Photos

Romania’s ruling Social Democrat-led government survived its first impeachment motion in parliament on Thursday, as the opposition, civil society activists and trade unions called for renewed protests against various measures taken by the government this year.

Around 2,000 opposition supporters gathered in front of parliament to protest against the ruling party and support the impeachment vote as drivers circled the building, waving Romanian and European Union flags.

Social Democrat MPs left the session before the opposition read the impeachment motion, which was backed by all opposition factions – the Liberals, the Save Romania Union and nationalist Popular Movement Party.

However, because the motion did not win the backing of the Democratic Union of Hungarians, the main ethnic Hungarian party in Romania, it did not garner enough votes.

The two leaders of the ruling coalition, Social Democrat chief Liviu Dragnea, and the head of the Alliance for the Liberals and Democrats, ALDE, Calin Popescu Tariceanu, did not attend the session.

The opposition and some Social Democrats have called for Dragnea’s resignation after National Anti-Corruption Directorate froze all his assets on Tuesday as part of an investigation into the alleged embezzlement of European funds.

President Klaus Iohannis said on Wednesday that Dragnea should resign as speaker for the Chamber of Deputies and should not have been elected to the post in the first place. 

“It’s wrong to have people with criminal records in a country’s leadership,” Iohannis said.

Daniel Chirica, the Social Democrat Mayor of Iasi, in eastern Romania, also called for Dragnea’s resignation on Wednesday as party chief, saying that “the confusion in Romania and the party is his fault”.

Dragnea has dismissed all the accusations, however, blaming them on a “parallel state” that is trying to take over the country.

Despite holding the majority in parliament, the Social Democrat-led coalition is facing fresh opposition from civil society groups.

Some 39 non-governmental organizations and the main trade union confederacies have called for mass protests on Sunday against decisions made by the party that they deem unfair and illiberal.

Trade unions are especially unhappy with the recently adopted fiscal code that has transferred the cost of social contributions from employers to employees, potentially reducing workers’ net wages.

The government, however, also issued a decree obliging companies to increase staffs’ gross wages, so that employees receive the same net amount.

Civil society activists have been protesting since the beginning of the year against moves by the party to curb the fight against corruption.

NGOs have called for renewed demonstrations on Sunday in several cities as MPs debate a justice bill that subordinates prosecutors to the politically appointed Minister of Justice, thus rendering them vulnerable to political pressure. 

NGOs are also unhappy after the Senate on Monday passed a bill obliging them to declare their donors every six months.