Romania. According to Countryaah.com, Romania was given a new government in January, a few weeks after the election. Parliament endorsed Sorin Grindeanu as prime minister for a coalition led by the Social Democrats (PSD), which just over a year earlier was forced out of power accused of widespread corruption.
The fight against corruption has been successful in recent years, but now the new PSD government proposed legislative changes that would prevent prosecution and trial of corruption-accused politicians, including PSD leader Liviu Dragnea. The proposal was met by protests in a number of cities with tens of thousands of protesters. In Bucharest, the slogan “down with the thieves” sounded. The government enforced the proposal with decrees, and protests grew until a quarter of a million people demonstrated in Bucharest and some fifty other cities. These were the biggest protests since the fall of communism. President Klaus Iohannis took part in the protests, saying that the government is taking away from the Romanians the dream of a country free from corruption. The President called on the Constitutional Court to review the decree, a minister left the government in protest, The EU expressed its concern and the US indicated that Romania’s membership of NATO could be affected. After five days of giant protests, the government gave up and withdrew its decree, but the protests only increased in strength. About half a million people now demonstrated against a proposal to change the penal code. The government also bent on that point. The government won a vote of no confidence in Parliament, but the Justice Minister responsible for the decree chose to resign. He was succeeded by a politically independent lawyer. Tens of thousands of people across the country continued to demonstrate demanding that the entire government resign. President Iohannis proposed a referendum on anti-corruption reforms, a proposal approved by Parliament.
In June, open rebellion within the PSD broke out against Prime Minister Grindeanu, who refused to resign. A power struggle was fought between him and party leader Liviu Dragnea, who wanted to become prime minister but was convicted of electoral fraud and charged with abuse of power. PSD MPs chose to distrust their own head of government, and a majority in parliament voted him out. Minister of Economy Mihai Tudose (PSD) was nominated as new Prime Minister and approved in a vote by PSD and Liberal coalition partner ALDE. The party of the Hungarian-speaking UDMR also supported Tudose in the vote.
In the government of Tudose, a number of ministers from the previous coalition returned, and even now proposals were made that would give the government greater control over the judiciary and weaken the fight against corruption. Thus, criticism continued at home and from the EU and the US.
In September, it was reported that Deputy Prime Minister Sevil Shhaideh was suspected of corruption following a contentious government decision on agricultural land leased to private entrepreneurs. A deputy minister for EU funds was also suspected in the prosecution, which had links with PSD leader Dragnea. President Iohannis said both should leave their posts and he criticized the PSD for protecting them. In November, around 10,000 people in Bucharest protested against the government’s proposal to reduce the anti-corruption agency’s powers. The EU warned that the fight against corruption would weaken.
The government presented a controversial tax reform that was criticized by both unions and employers. The level of tax-free income would be lowered, small businesses receive increased tax and social insurance is paid by employees but not by employers.
In November, a charge came against PSD leader Liviu Dragnea for fraud, abuse of power and organizing crime syndicates. Eight other persons were indicted on similar grounds. The opposition demanded that Dragnea resign as Speaker of Parliament’s House of Commons. At the end of November, nearly 50,000 people in a number of cities protested against the government demanding its resignation.
During the year, the tourist attraction Dracula’s Castle Poenari was closed on a hilltop in Transylvania, where visitors were frightened by a bear cub with three kids. According to the police, it is the tourists themselves who have attracted the bears by leaving food in the area.