For the past week, hundreds of thousands of Romanians have turned out in record numbers to protest recent moves by their government that essentially legalized their own corruption.
The protests, except for a few incidents, remained peaceful, and the sheer number of those who showed up was nothing short of monumental, and — as we have just learned — effective!
The grassroots protest started with roughly 12,000 Romanian protesters taking to the streets outside the government building in the capital on Tuesday, and climbed daily to well over 250,000 by Friday.
According to the BBC, the Romanian government says it will withdraw a controversial decree that would have decriminalized some corruption offenses.
Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu just said it would be repealed on Sunday.
“I do not want to divide Romania. It can’t be divided in two,” Mr. Grindeanu said in a televised statement. “We’ll hold an extraordinary meeting on Sunday to repeal the decree, withdraw, cancel it … and find a legal way to make sure it does not take effect.”
As the Free Thought Project reported, the protests began when Romania’s leftist Social Democrat Party (PSD) issued the emergency decree which decriminalized cases of corruption involving less than 45k euros. It essentially legalized the bribing of government officials, as long as it was under 45k euros.
One immediate beneficiary would have been Liviu Dragnea, who leads the ruling PSD party and faces charges of defrauding the state of €24,000. Dragnea was serving a two-year suspended sentence for election fraud, although he denied any wrongdoing. The suspended sentence originally barred Dragnea from ever serving as the prime minister. But with the government’s emergency decree decriminalizing political corruption in cases involving less than 45k euros, it was conceivable Dragnea could’ve been named prime minister.
The PSD won the election of 2016 and the measure was one of the PSD’s first executive orders put in place since taking over power in November. To put things into perspective, consider this headline from the Economist describing the PSD’s rise to power: “Conviction politics: Romania elects a party led by a vote rigger.” Not only was the party’s leader already a convicted election defrauder, but he now reportedly wants to be the country’s new leader.
Now, thanks to the power of peaceful action, this legalization of corruption will apparently not take place.
“The damage it will do, if it comes into force, can never be repaired,” Laura Kovesi, chief prosecutor of the National Anti-Corruption Directorate had told the BBC.
Because the protests remained peaceful, they kept growing. As the number of peaceful people assembling in front of parliament grew, so did the pressure on the Romanian government. This case illustrates the true power of the people.
We are the many — they are the few.
As the AP reports, one of the demonstrators, Cristian Busuioc, explained why he had come out on the streets with his 11-year-old son.
“I want to explain to him … what democracy means, and the way the ones who govern must create laws for the people and not against them or in their own interest,” he told the Associated Press.
Below is the live feed of the protests. It is nothing short of awe-inspiring. The Romanian people’s effectiveness by remaining peaceful, yet powerful, has shown through and should serve as a lesson to those in America who think that smashing windows will somehow lead to progress.
Bravo Romania. Bravo.