We spoke too soon: last night they went and did it. Under cover of darkness, well after 22:00 Romania’s government issued an emergency ordinance which decriminalises a large number of corruption offences. Major changes were also made to the penal code which will see thousands of corruption cases dropped. Despite the late hour, tens of thousands of people came out onto the streets of Bucharest and other major cities to protest against the move. Roads leading to Piata Victoriei in Bucharest (the location of the government building) were closed while members of the government were spirited away via a rear entrance. There will be larger demonstrations today (as we write, people are already in Piata Victoriei).
We have now, alas, been proven right about something we have said for years: the PSD is not a political party, it is an organised crime syndicate. What it did last night was undo decades of progress in the fight against corruption despite the opposition of every single part of the justice system, not to mention civil society and the population at large. Yes, the PSD won an election, and won fair and square. But it did not win the right to govern illegally. (Having said that, although what they did last night was illegal, they were careful to add a clause in the ordinance which decriminalises their very act of breaking the law. They really did think of everything: we’ll give them that).
It is impossible to write anything else at this stage as the situation is highly fluid. A meeting of the Magistrates Council (chaired by President Klaus Iohannis) has just finished. Opposition parties are already discussing the possibility of resigning en bloc from parliament in the hope of forcing new elections (something for which there is no precedent, and may not work). The ordinance may be sent for referral to the Constitutional Court, but even here procedure is unclear: there simply is no precedent – even in Romania – for dealing with a government that breaks the law.
All we can say right now is bugger.