The Rendon Group Snapshot Report – 20 February 2017

by TRG Alerts Admin on February 27, 2017

The Rendon Group

(20FEB17)

Each week The Rendon Group’s media analysts will focus on a different continent and a different issue affecting that continent. As always, we remain available to answer any questions you may have and to provide additional information upon request. For more information regarding The Rendon Group’s products and services, please contact us at Alert@Rendon.com or +1-202-745-4900.

Romania: Marathon of massive protests against judicial reform, corruption

Romania ProtestsPeople light the flashes of their mobile phones in the colors of Romania’s flag during an anti-government protest in Bucharest, Romania, 12FEB. (AP)

After returning to power following the 11DEC16 elections, Romania’s Social Democratic Party (PSD) government drafted a decree on 18JAN17 that would have pardoned thousands of prisoners and decriminalized some graft offenses. Critics were quick to point out that the decree would largely benefit political figures tied to the ruling PSD, such as the party’s leader Liviu Dragnea, who is on trial for corruption. Some observers have commented that the crisis has exposed a generational divide among Romanians: older Romanians, who lived under Communist rule, accept corruption as a given, while younger generations demand a more efficient and fair distribution of public resources. The backlash to the proposed decree instigated the largest protests in the country since the 1989 Revolution. So far, the results of the protests have been less radical than 1989, when President Nicolae Ceaușescu was overthrown and executed. The government withdrew the proposed decree on 04FEB, but has thus far resisted pressure to resign. The protests calling for the resignation of the government continue, with participants braving intense weather such as sub-zero cold and heavy rain, albeit in smaller numbers.

2017 Romania Reported Protest SizesNews summary of events during the weeks of 22JAN17 – 20FEB17

  • 22JAN: Thousands of people marched through the capital and other cities to protest against government pardons. (Guardian)

  • 23JAN: The president called for a referendum on a government proposal to pardon thousands of prisoners. (AP)

  • 25JAN: The EU’s executive arm told Bulgaria and Romania to do more to meet European Union standards on crime, corruption, and judicial reform. (AFP)

  • 27JAN: The European Commission criticised the proposed pardon decree. (Guardian)

  • 29JAN: Tens of thousands of Romanians protested in Bucharest and other main cities against the government’s judicial reform plans, saying that they could hurt an anti-graft drive. (Reuters)

  • 30JAN: Justice Minister Florin Iordache said that the government would probably amend the proposed decrees. (Reuters)

  • 31JAN: Liviu Dragnea of the Social Democrats (PSD), who has already been convicted of voter fraud, proclaimed his innocence as he went on trial charged with abuse of power. (AFP)

  • 01FEB: The leader of the centrist opposition National Liberal Party (PNL) Raluca Turcan said his party was filing a no-confidence motion against the government over the decree. (Reuters)

  • 02FEB: Minister of business, trade, and entrepreneurship Florin Jianu resigned as more than 250,000 Romanians came out to demonstrate in the biggest anti-corruption demonstration since the fall of communism in 1989. (Reuters)

  • 03FEB: PM Sorin Grindeanu appealed for calm after a third night of nationwide demonstrations against the emergency law. (CNN)

  • 04FEB: PM Sorin Grindeanu said he was scrapping the decree, bowing to the protests. (Reuters)

  • 06FEB: Embattled PM Sorin Grindeanu insisted he would not resign, despite record numbers of people joining protests across the country. (DPA)

  • 06FEB: The justice ministry scrapped plans for a bill on changing the criminal code. (Reuters)

  • 07FEB: President Klaus Iohannis said the Social Democrat government had caused a crisis in the country with a graft decree that prompted hundreds of thousands of people to protest, but he did not want to topple the cabinet or hold a snap election. (Reuters)

  • 08FEB: The Social Democratic government survived a no-confidence motion in parliament. (DPA)

  • 09FEB: Justice Minister Florin Iordache resigned over controversial corruption reforms. (CNN)

  • 10FEB: PM Sorin Grindeanu appointed the country’s Minister-delegate for European Affairs Ana Birchall as interim minister at the Justice Ministry. (Xinhua)

  • 10FEB: The High Court of Cassation and Justice said that the Senate speaker Calin Popescu Tariceanu can stand trial for making false statements under oath. (AP)

  • 11FEB: In Bucharest, 3,000 people gathered to protest attempts to water-down anti-corruption laws. (AFP)

  • 12FEB: Fifty thousand protesters in Bucharest and twenty thousand protesters in other cities took to the streets to demand that the government resign. (AFP)

  • 13FEB: Parliament agreed to hold a referendum on fighting official corruption following pressure from public protests. (Guardian)

  • 14FEB: Liviu Dragnea, leader of the Social Democratic Party, denied putting no-work jobs on the public payroll. (AP)

  • 16FEB: The EU hailed the decision to reverse the government decree that would have weakened anti-corruption laws. (AFP)

  • 19FEB: Thousands of people turned out in Bucharest and Cluj for the 20th day in a row to protest against the government. (DPA)

Sample of Twitter handles tweeting about anti-corruption protests in Romania

  • @AndraCiubotaru – Andra Ciubotaru, Chief Editor and Co-Founder, DotaBlast (Romania)

  • @claudiupandaru – Claudiu Pândaru, Journalist, Republica.ro (Romania)

  • @Etomiuc – Eugen Tomiuc, Senior Correspondent, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

  • @karaszpalko – Palko Karasz, Digital Editor, New York Times

  • @paul2ivan – Paul Ivan, Senior Policy Analyst, European Policy Centre (EPC) (Belgium)

  • @SabinaCiofu – Sabina Ciofu, PhD Candidate in Defence Studies, King’s College (UK)

Sample of Third Party Validators regarding the anti-corruption protests in Romania

Carl Dolan, Director, Transparency International EU

“Rather than scrapping the CVM [Cooperation and Verification Mechanism], probably the solution would be to enlarge it and apply it to all member states.”

  • “Keep Moving, Nothing To See Here: European Commission’s Take on Corruption,” WSJ, 25JAN17

Radu Magdin, Analyst, Smartlink (Romania)

“If this does not please people, then they will try other measures. Because this process of protests will not stop this evening…. It’s very hard for the prime minister to have the credibility to say, ‘Yes, it’s all fine now, it’s over.’ There is such an atmosphere of distrust.”

  • “Romania Protests Simmer Despite Leaders’ Promises to Back Down,” NYT, 05FEB17

Alexandra Olivotto, Contributor, Scena9 (Romania)

“When you live in a totalitarian state, the right thing to do is to cheat on that state. An older generation still feels that.”

  • “Corruption Crusader Stirs Romania,” WSJ, 13FEB17

Radu Umbres, Political Anthropologist and Lecturer, National School of Political Sciences and Public Administration (Romania)

“There is this idea that to be involved in politics is to be dirty, that nobody goes into politics unless they’re in it for themselves. One of the aspects of these protests, a growth phenomenon, is that it does reveal a kind of political awakening.”

  • “Romania is engulfed by protest in a political awakening of the young,” LAT, 13FEB17

Sorin Ionita, Political Analyst, Expert Forum (Romania)

“In Romania, the political cleavage is not left against right, as it is in Western Europe. It is corruption versus anti-corruption.”

  • “Romania Reverses Decision to Weaken Corruption Law,” NYT, 04FEB17

Anca Maria Aron, Macroeconomic Economist, UniCredit Bank AG (Romania)

“Passing such ordinances would reverse the anti-corruption progress made in the last years and would lead to a deterioration of the country’s fundamentals, negatively impacting foreign investors’ sentiment toward Romania.”

  • “Romania Poised for Referendum After Biggest Protests Since 2015,” Bloomberg, 22JAN17

Sample of open source research conducted by TRG analysts related to the anti-corruption protests in Romania

1. BLOG: In corruption-riddled Romania, officials now allow some room for abuse

Media: World Views (Washington Post)

Byline: Rick Noack

Date: 01 February 2017

Corruption now comes in two forms in Romania. There is the big kind that can still land an official in jail. Then there’s the acceptable type that will bring nothing more than a knowing shrug.

The country’s governing Social Democratic Party shocked domestic and international observers Tuesday when it adopted an emergency measure to decriminalize official misconduct causing damage worth less than about $48,000. Thousands of Romanians protested the decision, calling it a blow to recent progress in fighting chronic corruption in a European Union nation where accusations of bribe-taking, favor-trading and bureaucratic abuses are part of everyday life.

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2. Following protests, Romania will repeal corruption decree

Media: Christian Science Monitor

Byline: Weston Williams

Date: 05 February 2017

FEBRUARY 5, 2017 —Following widespread protests across the country over the past few days, Romania will repeal a controversial decree to decriminalize certain kinds of government corruption

The demonstrations took place in around 70 cities across the country, with an estimated 330,000 people participating, according to police. The protests are some of the largest since Nicolae Ceaușescu was removed from power in 1989.

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3. EDITORIAL: From Romania, an encouraging sign for democracy

Media: Washington Post

Byline: Editorial Board

Date: 07 February 2017

AT A time when democracy is eroding in several nations in Central and Eastern Europe, an encouraging countermovement has suddenly erupted in Romania, a formerly Communist nation of 20 million on the Black Sea. For the past week, huge demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of people have rocked the capital, Bucharest, and other major cities in what has been widely described as the largest political mobilization since the collapse of the Communist regime in 1989. The rallying point has been simple, direct and, given the country’s history, inspiring: a demand that the government not relax anti-corruption laws.

Romanian governments have been permeated with graft at least since the days of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, but after joining the European Union in 2007 the nation’s political elite came under mounting pressure from Brussels to reform. The eventual result was the establishment of the independent National Anticorruption Directorate, which has been prosecuting cases at the rate of more than 1,000 a year — including those of senior political figures.

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4. Romania Prime Minister: I may fire justice minister over graft decree

Media: Associated Press

Byline: Alison Mutler

Date: 07 February 2017

Romania’s prime minister said Monday he may fire the justice minister for mishandling a contentious decree that has sparked the country’s largest anti-government protests since communism ended.

Premier Sorin Grindeanu said the emergency decree to decriminalize some official misconduct approved by his cabinet last week had “led to division” among Romanians. Grindeanu suggested Justice Minister Florin Iordache may lose his job over the move within days.

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5. Thousands of Romanians march against government

Media: Agence France-Presse (AFP)

Byline: N/A

Date: 11 February 2017

Bucharest, Feb 11, 2017 (AFP) – Thousands of protesters braved the cold to march in Romania’s main cities on Saturday, angered by government attempts to water down anti-corruption laws.

In the capital Bucharest, where a major rally is planned for Sunday, around 3,000 people gathered at the seat of government despite sub-zero temperatures.

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