Last night, in Bucharest alone there were over 10,000 (some sources claiming 20,000) people protesting against the newly elected government. The Romanians are protesting against one very controversial measure they’re planning to adopt: they plan to change the laws so that corrupt politicians that are in jail or are under investigation would be freed and/or have their records cleared.
In other words, they are planning to change how corruption or abuse of office are defined by the law codes, offering escape routes to those already under investigation (or already convicted) and, of course, opening many gates for future abuses.
Many people consider this measure which was planned to be sneakily introduced and voted by the huge majority the government enjoys, but their plans were messed up by the President and, during the past few days, the protests. In many ways, these recent manifestations reminded me of the Colectiv protests which resulted in the corrupt government falling and one of the best governments in Romania’s post-communist history taking its place.
However, the Romanians seem to suffer from short term memory losses as this winter they have voted – and did so in huge numbers – the government they have protested against and managed to throw away in a remarkable, unprecedented feat. And now the same people have the power and they do so with even better numbers than before (they have a majority of about 56%).
And, of course, they’re now planning to save their politicians and do what they’re known to do best: look after their interests and shape laws and everything to suit their needs and offer them the freedom to do what they please without risking much.
But it seems that the days when the Romanians would just sit back and accept measures they are not agreeing with are done. Last night’s protests are a proof of that and fortunately they manage to draw the World’s attention over these problems. And hopefully that will be enough to make the government reconsider, although the stakes are definitely a lot higher for them and many think – myself included – that they will simply ignore these protests and carry on with these anti-democratic measures.
Because that is what these measures are, in the end: anti-democratic. By allowing acts of corruption to go unpunished, the politicians have fewer reasons to worry and more reasons to go ahead and do things like that. By pardoning convicted or investigated politicians, they open up the doors for them to hold public offices again and many believe to offer the governing party’s leader the chance to run for president.
Because, yes, the leader of the majoritarian party in Romania’s government, Liviu Dragnea, is under investigation and because of that was not allowed to become the country’s Prime Minister. Reports show that the current prime minister is basically his puppet and most – if not all – of the people in the government are under his influence. And since the party managed to get historic results in the elections – and with Presidential elections coming – he’s planning to pave the way for an easy win.
Of course, he still needs laws to be changed and that is what the Romanians are protesting against at the moment. Over 10,000 protesting in Bucharest alone is a large number. Many public figures, celebrities, TV and Radio hosts but also Romania’s president Klaus Iohannis took part at yesterday’s protests and rumors are that many of the people who actually voted for the current government are against this measure which I believe would set Romania back a lot, hinder progress and take us back to the years after the revolution. This means that, just like that, we’d go back to the 90s.
Many people are hoping now – mostly the leading party’s opposition – that the government will fall and many claim that they should step away because the people don’t want them. However, things are a bit more complicated now than they were during the Colectiv tragedy: first and most importantly, the government had just been elected in December and was established in January (yes, they did not waste any time in trying to push their controversial measures!). And second – but less important – 20,000 people protesting in the country doesn’t seem that much when you think that Romania has a population of almost 20 million.
I was joking with Kevin – who recently moved to Romania, one of the country’s biggest selling points being the low cost of living – that the current government is perfect for him and those looking for a low cost of living as the country will definitely not benefit from such measures and any growth would be impossible. So there are always people who would benefit from any type of measure but unfortunately many of those who wouldn’t don’t realize it yet.
It’s almost like that guy who was shouting that he’s voting with Trump, who should stop ObamaCare immediately because he’s not using it anyway as he’s on The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (which is the official name of ObamaCare – oh, the irony!)
The sad thing is that fake news and manipulation are now an important threat to the human race – not only the big countries are threatened by fake news and photo manipulation, but every single person on this planet. In this case, manipulated photos started to be published online, trying to enrage people against the protestants. One image, for example, was photoshopped to change the text on a banner that one young woman was holding from “Rock this Country!” to “We’ll burn this country down if it’s needed”:
I personally believe and hope that such act will soon be punishable by law because this type of manipulation and disinformation is just as dangerous as many crimes out there. But unfortunately these go viral before people realize that they’re fake – and when the proof’s out there showing that it was actually fake, it’s too late. Strange and sad.
Either way, I feel that I went away from the protests in Romania, so I’ll stop my ramblings now. Time will tell if these protests manage to stop the government for changing the law in their favor. My gut tells me that they won’t – they are know for defying, over-confidence and ruling for themselves. And unfortunately, this time, they had around 56% of the voting Romanians backing them up and fueling their megalomania.