BUCHAREST — Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Romania on Monday for the fifth day in a row, calling on President Traian Basescu to step down after weekend protests marred by violence.

Waving Romanian flags, protesters in central Bucharest chanted "Down with Basescu" and "Thieves".

Some of them carried a coffin and a cross with an inscription reading "Basescu = Ceausescu", in reference to the late communist dictator executed in December 1989.

Austerity measures taken by the centre-right governement to fight recession and secure a deal with the International Monetary Fund have been hitting hard.

Riot police, who have been criticised by the media and the opposition for their "leniency" towards hooligans, checked the crowd for suspicious-looking protesters, a spokesman, Georgian Enache, told AFP.

A dozen of them were taken into custody after police found they were hiding firecrackers and smoke bombs, he added.

More than 70 people were wounded Saturday and Sunday in Bucharest during clashes between protesters and riot police.

Prime Minister Emil Boc on Monday condemned the incidents and called for dialogue.

"Street violence will only impair our chance of creating prosperity more rapidly and put at risk Romania's situation on an international level," he warned.

Rallies were also organised in a dozen cities across Romania, local media said.