Clashes have erupted in the Romanian capital of Bucharest after more than 250,000 demonstrated hit the streets to protect against a government decree decriminalizing some graft offenses. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT - NATURAL (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Clashes broke out on Wednesday in the Romanian capital of Bucharest, where more than 250,000 Romanians were demonstrating against a government decree decriminalizing some graft offenses, seen as the biggest retreat on reforms since the country joined the European Union in 2007. Romania's top judicial watchdog, the Superior Magistrates' Council (CSM), earlier in the day filed a constitutional court challenge to the decree unveiled by the new Social Democrat government of Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu. Numbers of protesters rose to a new high in the evening, reaching 130,000-150,000 outside the cabinet building in Bucharest. Another 100,000-150,000 were estimated by riot police to have joined similar rallies in 55 other towns and cities. The decree was approved by the cabinet on Tuesday evening. "Repeal it, then leave," protesters shouted. "Thieves, thieves." Many waved Romanian national flags. If enforced, as planned, within 10 days, the decree would, among other things, decriminalize abuse-of-power offenses in which the sums involved are less than 200,000 lei ($48,000). That would put an end to the current trial of Social Democrat party leader Liviu Dragnea, accused of using his political influence to secure state salaries for two people working at his party headquarters between 2006 and 2013. Dozens of other political figures from all parties stand to benefit from the decree. Two opposition parties, the centrist Liberals and the Save Romania Union USR, filed a no-confidence motion on Wednesday against the government which has little chance of succeeding. As parliament opened for its first regular session of the year, USR lawmakers paraded banners reading "Shame" and other opposition deputies shouted "Resignation" or "Thieves". The Romanian leu fell as much as 1.4 percent against the euro to 4.5540, marking a seven-month low, while longer-term yields rose 14 basis points.