Romania justice minister quits over anti-graft law protests

Romanian Justice Minister Florin Iordache resigned Thursday after his bill to reduce government corruption penalties prompted street demonstrations.

"Since I came to the justice ministry, I planned and performed all legal steps to remedy a series of quite sensitive problems".

The rallies were the largest protests since the fall of communist rule in 1989. "But this wasn't sufficient for public opinion so I chose to step down". As you've seen yourself, all my initiatives that I have assumed are legal and constitutional.

The decree would have decriminalized corruption that caused damage worth less than about $48,000 (200,000 lei).

The announcement has been made today, 9 February, after a discussion with Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu.

President Klaus Iohannis has the final say in approving ministerial replacements.

Earlier in the day, the country's constitutional court rejected as inadmissible claims that the government introducing the emergency ordinance amending the country's criminal codes was unconstitutional. He has also called for a national referendum on continuing the fight against corruption. Parliament must still endorse the government's decision to rescind the decree.

Opponents regard it as a way of pardoning some members of the ruling Social Democrat Party in advance of trials. The country's ombudsman had earlier asked the court to intervene. Demonstrators in Bucharest began massing daily, beginning on Wednesday.

An estimated 2,000 people, braving temperatures of -5 degrees Celsius (23 Fahrenheit), gathered outside government headquarters to demand the cabinet's resignation.

The government withdrew the decree after mass protests.

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