The government of Romania [official website] on Saturday repealed a decree enacted earlier in the week that had decriminalized corruption offenses and official misconduct in which the damages were less than €44,000. Since the enactment, protesters had taken to the streets to criticize the decree and to demand the government step down, resulting in some of the largest demonstrations in Romania since the fall of communism in 1989. The government had argued that the decree was necessary to avoid prison overcrowding and was set to result in pardons for about 2,500 prisoners. Critics have argued that it was a political move to get political friends out of prison and a beneficiary of the decree would have been Liviu Dragnea, the leader of the Social Democratic Party, which enacted the decree. Dragnea faces charges for defrauding the state of €24,000. In a statement following the repeal, the government noted that it had heard the voice of the street and did not want to divide Romania. The demonstrations were set to continue on Sunday [Al Jazeera report], with many still calling for the government to step down, despite the repeal of the decree.
The controversial decree was passed [JURIST report] on Tuesday, sparking immediate demonstrations. The decree was originally drafted on January 18. The following day, the government published a draft of a plan to lower prison overcrowding [JURIST report] that involved pardons for thousands of prisoners, which was met with protests around the country. The government insisted that a referendum [JURIST report] on the government’s plan to pardon the prisoners was needed despite protests. In 2015 Romania’s Superior Magistrates’ Council rejected 22 proposals that would have made it harder to fight top-level corruption [JURIST report].