Blog post

Why it's kicking off in Romania

Cristiana Petru-Stefanescu20 January 2012

As a country with little protesting experience, it has taken Romanians a bit longer to come out on the streets to protest austerity measures. Sparked by the president Traian Basescu publicly denigrating Dr Raed Arafat, then the deputy health minister for opposing the privatisation of the ambulance-paramedics system, the movement has grown over the past week to include people protesting against, among other things, salary and public spending cuts, low pensions and the decision to delay regional elections and thus illegally lengthening mandates by six months. But most of all, the protests are a reaction to political corruption. As one protester has put it, "we apologise, we do not produce as much as you steal".

26 NGOs have publicly declared their support for the University Square movement, and are rejecting the "sham" dialogue the government has invited them to until the latter has apologised for calling protesters "worms" and an "inept and violent slum". With a strong hold on power, the government and the president show no signs of willingness to resign, and have been telling the people to go home and clear the streets. As an extra incentive, late yesterday evening the gendarmes again violently chased protestors out of University Square, beating some of them up and arresting dozens of others.

For coverage of events in English, see the Economist and BBC websites. For live images, check out the University Square facebook page. The Romanian diasporas are starting to show solidarity as well, with movements taking place in London, Vienna, Italy, and forthcoming over the weekend in Paris, Berlin and Stuttgart.