Romania opposition supporters stage mass protest
BUCHAREST — Around 7,000 people joined a mass opposition demonstration in Bucharest on Thursday calling on Romanian President Traian Basescu to step down, one of a number of protests held across the nation.
The opposition rally was organised separately from protests taking place for a seventh day across Romania against austerity measures and a political class accused of corruption and incompetence.
“Down with Basescu!” chanted the protesters in Bucharest at the rally organised by the main opposition parties, the Social-Democrat Party (PSD) and the National Liberal Party (PNL).
“We became poorer because of Basescu but his Liberal Democrat Party (PDL) became richer. We should all take to the streets to protest”, Sorin Mateescu, a 53-year-old civil servant told AFP.
“People are angry because some lost their jobs, some saw their pension cut, some feel humiliated,” PSD leader Victor Ponta told the crowds, estimated by police at 7,000.
“We are united by one thing, we are shouting ‘Jos Basescu’ (down with Basescu). However, we have to go further and propose solutions for this country.”
In a separate protest, more than 1,500 gathered for hours on the University square in Bucharest, one of the main rallying points of the anti-communist revolutionaries who overthrew the hated Ceausescu regime.
They shouted slogans against Basescu and the opposition parties.
“We are here because we are fed up with the political class as a whole, be it the opposition or the ruling parties. We can actually say, the political cast”, Maria Alexandru, 27, told AFP.
“We need a different mentality”, she added.
Thousands of people have been taking to the streets for a week in dozens of Romanian cities and towns.
The rallies were triggered by the resignation of a respected health official after a row with Basescu over a controversial health reform.
Raed Arafat, a Palestinian-born doctor praised for setting up the emergency services in Romania, was reinstated in his post Tuesday.
But protests are continuing nationwide against a backdrop of general anger at austerity measures taken in agreement with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union.
Except some violent incidents, caused mainly by football supporters on Saturday and Sunday in Bucharest, most of the protests have been peaceful.
The United States on Thursday urged the Romanian authorities and people to avoid violence.