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Romania to draft new criminal bill after protests stop decree

Protesters take part in a demonstration in Bucharest

Romania’s justice minister said he will publish details of a new bill on the criminal code on Monday, a day after the government scrapped an earlier decree following the biggest mass protests since the 1989 overthrow of Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu.

Hundreds of thousands of Romanians had protested in the capital Bucharest and dozens of other cities against the decree that would have effectively shielded some officials from prosecution on corruption charges.

Even after the government rescinded the decree – a decision which has yet to be upheld by parliament – protests continued on Sunday, with people shouting “We don’t believe you, we won’t give up”.

The government has said the decree, hastily adopted late on Tuesday was designed to bring the criminal code into line with recent constitutional court rulings.

But critics argued the one-month-old cabinet had used the need to update legislation to reflect court rulings to deal the largest blow to an ongoing anti-corruption crackdown since Romania joined the European Union in 2007.

“When we repealed the emergency decree, we went back to the initial situation, when there were many unconstitutional articles,” Justice Minister Florin Iordache told reporters on Monday.

“We will develop and publish a draft bill which will be submitted in parliament after public consultation.”

Sunday’s rescinding order will go to parliament, where it can be rejected. The ruling Social Democrats and their junior coalition partner have a strong majority.

They also face a no confidence vote over the decree filed by the opposition Liberals and Save Romania Union, which they are strongly expected to survive.

“I don’t think parliament will reject the repeal decree, but they may try to introduce some of the contested provisions in a draft bill to amend the criminal codes,” said Sergiu Miscoiu, professor of political science at the Babes-Bolyai University.

“The government’s loss of credibility is very serious and any measure it takes going forward, not just in the justice department, regardless of its nature, will be looked upon with suspicion and could trigger street protests.”

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