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04/12/2016

Romanian protests continue, despite Ponta resignation

Elections

Romanian protests continue, despite Ponta resignation

Mass protest in Bucharest's University Square. [Facebook]

Protests continued through the night in Romania despite the resignation of Prime Minister Victor Ponta, with demands for early elections, and calls for reform of the country’s political system.

Ponta resigned on Wednesday (4 November) following street protests, as the death toll from a weekend Bucharest nightclub fire climbed. The events coincided with Bucharest hosting a NATO mini-summit.

>>Read: Ponta resigns as NATO holds Bucharest mini-summit

The mayor of the district of Bucharest where the nightclub fire occurred, and the country’s Interior Minister, Gabriel Oprea, also stepped down yesterday.

The resignations, however, failed to defuse tensions.

Some 35,000 protestors joined a march in Bucharest, demanding early elections and further political reformRallies were also reported in the cities of Cluj, Timi?oara and Constan?a. A total of 70,000 people were in the streets in the past night, writes EurActiv Romania.

Regular parliamentary elections are currently scheduled for December 2016.

Romania has never seen snap elections in the post-Communist era. The Romanian political system has allowed for prime ministers to quit, and new cabinets to be formed, as long as parliamentary backing is preserved.

In this case, a parliamentary majority seems intact, after the junior ruling coalition party UNPR said it was willing to keep supporting the coalition government in which the Social Democrats (PSD) are the leading force. The opposition liberal PNL party of President Klaus Iohannis wants snap elections.

‘Country is rising up’

Protesters gathered in University Square, a hub for anti-government rallies in central Bucharest, and marched toward parliament shouting: “Get out of your homes if you care” and “Don’t be afraid, the country is rising up,” the BBC reported.

According to the Romanian press, it is likely that the movement will only grow, as calls to action have been mounting in social media.

Demonstrators have been complaining of government corruption and poor safety supervision, and say they see Ponta’s resignation as just the beginning of reform for the political elite.

Romanian media are also carrying reports of demonstrations in support of the Romanian protests, in Paris and in London.

In neighbouring Bulgaria, which has been even less successful in fighting corruption, social media are overflowing with admiration for the Romanian protestors.

A blogger wrote that Bulgarians should queue in front of the Romanian embassy in Sofia and ask for citizenship.

This article will be updated through the day as developments unfold.

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