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article imageRomanians protest over move to hobble corruption fight

By AFP     Nov 26, 2017 in World

Thousands of Romanians took to the streets Sunday in fresh protests at the left-wing government and what critics say are its attempts to go easy on corruption.

The number of protesters braving the cold in Bucharest was estimated at 15,000-25,000, with thousands more demonstrating in other cities and towns.

A joint statement by around 40 civil society groups and two trade union federations who called the protests said Romania has been "taken over by a political mafia".

They want the withdrawal of proposed legislation that would overhaul Romania's justice system and reduce the powers of the respected anti-corruption directorate, the DNA.

Critics say the changes would dent progress in tackling graft, which Brussels has long complained about in the 10 years since Romania joined the European Union.

"Laws are being drawn up that go against Romania's interests just in order to save a few people under investigation. To me that seems awful," pensioner Ion Nica told AFP at the protests in Bucharest.

Another source of dismay is Liviu Dragnea, head of the ruling Social Democrats (PSD) who is barred from office due an electoral fraud conviction but who is seen as being in charge.

Last week prosecutors seized his assets in a probe into alleged misappropriation of public funds. He is also on trial for alleged abuse of power but denies wrongdoing.

Dragnea's PSD returned to power after a thumping election victory last December but has had a rocky ride.

It backtracked on altering anti-corruption laws in February after they provoked the biggest protests since communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was toppled and executed in 1989.

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