Romanian Protests Put Ruling Party Under Renewed Pressure

(Bloomberg) -- Romania’s ruling party came under renewed pressure as protests gripped major cities at the weekend, a response to recent political turmoil and planned changes to the judiciary.

Local television estimated that about 100,000 people demonstrated Saturday amid heavy snow, showing their dissatisfaction with the Social Democrats and what they see as attempts to weaken anti-corruption initiatives. Talks to determine the makeup of Viorica Dancila’s new government, the Black Sea nation’s third in a year, may drag on for several more days.

“We’ll have a thorough discussion over the governing program but no substantial changes will be made, just certain updates,” Social Democrat Liviu Dragnea said before the meeting. Other party lawmakers said as many as eight or nine ministers may be changed.

Romanian Protests Put Ruling Party Under Renewed Pressure

The ex-communist country of 20 million people is seeking stability after infighting sank the last two cabinets and risked derailing one of the European Union’s fastest-growing economies. Demonstrators demanded corruption-free governance and the resignation of Dragnea, who can’t take the premier’s job himself because of a criminal conviction.

The leu rallied toward the end of last week after Dancila’s candidacy was quickly backed by President Klaus Iohannis, removing the possibility of a prolonged vacancy at the head of the government and protracted wrangling over the post. But most of the currency’s gain this year has been erased. It was 0.1 percent weaker against the euro Monday in Bucharest, near its lowest level on record.

‘True Agenda’

Dancila, a 54-year-old European Parliament lawmaker who’s allied with Dragnea, will become Romania’s first woman prime minister if she wins a confidence vote scheduled for Jan. 29. That should be a formality as the Social Democrats and their allies command a majority in parliament.

While an unprecedented clampdown on corruption during the past five years has sent hundreds of high-ranking officials to trial or to prison, many Romanians fear the proposed judiciary laws would undermine that fight. Many are also tired of what they consider persistent political friction.

“They proved that their true agenda has nothing to do with the wellbeing of the country and its citizens,” said Paul Mitran, a 46-year-old economist who was among the protesters in Bucharest. “All they care about is for them to escape jail and have full power.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.