More than 50,000 Romanians protested in Bucharest on Saturday against controversial justice reforms passed by Parliament in December that critics say will undermine the independence of the judiciary.
Protesters chanted “justice, no corruption” and “we will not give up” during the march in the snow that began in University Square, where the revolution that brought about the collapse of the communist dictatorship in began 1989.
“I came out today because I have two little boys and they deserve a better life in this European country,” said Florentina Caval, speaking to Reuters. “I honestly don’t think we will manage to overturn the judicial bills, but we need to try.”
I came here to live in a free country that is not full of corrupt people,” Puica Marinescu, a protester, told Al Jazeera. “I want these assassins and mafia people who confiscated the revolution to leave the country.
Smaller protests took place in the cities of Cluj, Timisoara, Constanta, Bacau, Sibiu and Iasi. Nationwide, some 100,000 Romanians took to the streets. Some violent scenes occurred in the capital when protesters tried to break through a police line.
Critics argue that the controversial changes could impede the work of the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office by bringing the judicial inspection unit, which investigates judicial misconduct, under the control of the justice minister. They also accuse the governing Social Democrats of wanting to water down sentences for corruption.
The protests come a week after the Romanian Prime Minister Mihai Tudose was forced to step down from his position after he lost the support of his party who refused to back his call for Interior Minister Carmen Dan to resign in the face of a police child abuse scandal.
President Klaus Iohannis appointed fellow Social Democrat Viorica Dancila as the new prime minister on Wednesday. Dancila will leave her post as an MEP to take up her new role of prime minister.
A faithful ally of the PSD leader, Liviu Dragnea, Dancila will become the first woman to lead Romanian government and the third prime minister the country has had in just over a year.
Since coming to power only thirteen months ago, the PSD has been rocked by some of the largest protests the former communist country has seen since the fall of the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.