Why are police clashing with expats in Romania?
Darko Janjevic, 12.08.2018
Thousands of Romanian expats returned to their native country for a huge anti-government rally in Bucharest. Authorities responded with a brutal show of force, prompting fresh protests. DW looks at the ongoing troubles.
A crowd of up to 100,000 gathered before the seat of Romanian government in Bucharest on Friday to protest government corruption and demand early elections. Many of the protesters were Romanians emigrants who usually live and work abroad. Angry with the left-wing Social Democratic Party (PSD) and its leader, Liviu Dragnea, expats had organized themselves on social media and traveled home in order to attend the rally.
A small group of rioters attempted to storm the government building and clashed with police. The security forces responded with overwhelming force, using tear gas and water cannon. More than 450 people were injured, including a DW correspondent who was beaten by police. Several gendarmes were also injured. The scale of police violence prompted another, smaller rally in Bucharest on Saturday, with protests also held in other Romanian cities.
Why are expats upset with the government?
Romanians living abroad are predominantly protesting against PSD and its leader, Dragnea, accusing him of corruption and skewing the country's laws to sort out his own legal troubles.
More protests like this one are expected
The 55-year-old Dragnea is believed to be the country's most powerful politician. However, he was kept out of the prime ministerial seat by a conviction of electoral fraud and serves only as the parliamentary speaker. He was also given a three-and-a-half year sentence for abuse of office in June this year, although the verdict is not final.
The PSD and Dragnea came to power after winning an election in December 2016. Since then, both the Cabinet and the lawmakers have attempted to push through legal measures that would ease penalties for graft and abuse of power, presumably to Dragnea's benefit as well. Romania's popular anti-graft prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi was fired in July after her agency prosecuted three ministers, several lawmakers and hundreds of lower-ranking state officials for corruption.
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