February in Romania has brought 27 consecutive days of protests against the current government, at a scale unmatched since the Revolution in 1989. In a record day, more than 600,000 people gathered in the capital’s Victory Square and around the country to overturn a decision by the current ruling party to decriminalize some acts of corruption and abuse of office. This decision was especially self-serving given the high number of party members already serving suspended sentences for similar graft offenses. News outlets around the world have covered the events using flattering words, describing the peaceful riots as a ‘poetry of international resistance’ and a ‘massive political awakening.’
The resilience – and moderate success – of protesters, in spite of the government digging its heels in and the temperatures dropping, has been undeniably impressive, and has demonstrated an energetic interest in pursuing justice, which, rightly employed, could become the driver of a much needed change in Romanian politics.
Yet at the same time, amongst the shouting against totalitarian measures aimed at changing the penal and civil code, other voices emerged as well. Equally numerous, and sometimes belonging to the same people, they call for stronger ‘democratic’ processes and offer public displays of affection for the European Union. Unsurprisingly, there have also been no mass protests against another fairly recent economic policy which forces supermarkets to ensure at least 51% of their grocery offers are of Romanian provenance. In this regard, many protesters might decry the ‘thieving multinational corporations’, and ask for a government crackdown on tax evasions, in order to provide for socialized healthcare and education.
This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on February 27, 2017.