Romania's lower house of parliament overwhelmingly endorsed a government order to scrap a graft decree that triggered mass street protests, international condemnation and a consequent U-turn by the month-old cabinet.
The cabinet of Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu enraged people when it quietly approved on Jan. 31 a decree that would have decriminalized several corruption offences, prompting the largest display of anger since the 1989 fall of communism.
The lower house, as expected, backed the order comprehensively by 291 votes to none against with three abstentions. The upper house of parliament, the senate, approved the withdrawal of the decree last Tuesday after all ruling party leaders agreed to scrap the decree as quickly as possible.
The ruling Social Democrat-led coalition holds a comfortable majority in both houses of parliament following its victory in the Dec. 11 election.
The decree would have shielded dozens of public officials from prosecution and would have undermined a drive to stamp out high-level graft. After the protests, the decree was repealed and its main architect, Justice Minister Florin Iordache, resigned.
Last week, parliament unanimously endorsed a presidential plan to hold a national referendum over anti-corruption reforms. President Klaus Iohannis, a former leader of the center-right opposition, strongly criticized the government over the decree but has not yet set a date for the referendum.
The wording on the ballot paper will be up to the president, who said last month he wanted to hold the vote to see "the sovereign desire of Romanians" over the anti-graft drive.
Romania has seen its biggest anti-government protests since the end of communism in the nearly two weeks since the center-left government issued a decree diluting anti-corruption laws. Premier Sorin Grindeanu withdrew the decree, but nightly demonstrations have continued to draw large crowds demanding resignation of the government that assumed power last month. The decree, which sparked concern in Brussels and Washington, would have made abuse of power a crime punishable by jail only if the sums involved exceeded 200,000 lei (44,000 euros, $47,500). Critics say that this would have let off the head of the PSD, Liviu Dragnea, who is currently on trial for alleged abuse of power. He denies the charges and that he would benefit.
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