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February 12, 2017

By KIT GILLET

BUCHAREST, Romania — Exactly one week after the largest protests in a quarter of a century rocked Romania, an estimated 70,000 demonstrators filled the square outside the main government building in Bucharest on Sunday evening, determined to show those in power that the crisis was far from over.

While significantly less than the half a million who took to the streets across the country last Sunday, the Bucharest demonstration was still a potent sign of the resilient unrest in the country and the loss of trust between the new government, only in office since the beginning of January, and a large sector of the population.

Sunday was the 13th night in a row that protesters occupied Piata Victoriei — Victory Square — in Bucharest, after the government passed an emergency ordinance on Jan. 31 that effectively decriminalized some low-level corruption offenses, including cases of official misconduct in which the financial damage was less than 200,000 lei, or about $47,000. Protests have also taken place in more than 50 towns and cities across the country.

In the face of the large-scale backlash, the emergency ordinance was repealed a week ago, but that has not stopped protesters from demonstrating their anger.

Many in the square on Sunday continued to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu, as well as the presidents of the Chamber of Deputies and Senate, among the highest political offices in the country.

“We don’t trust this government. They lied to us. We want this government to resign,” said Maria Stoica, 38, an information-technology business analyst standing in the square. For her, it was the 10th night of protesting.

The Romanian government had hoped that it had weathered the worst of the crisis. On Wednesday it easily survived a no-confidence motion brought about by the parliamentary opposition. One day later, the prime minister accepted the resignation of Florin Iordache, the minister of justice and one of the architects of the emergency ordinance that was the catalyst for the protests.

However, Mr. Iordache’s resignation appears to have done little to appease those on the street.

“They promised one thing, but did another,” said Vlad Puiu, 41, a retail manager. “We are here to make sure what happened won’t happen again.”

After several days where it seemed as if the protests may have been waning, with nightly crowds diminishing to a few thousand in the face of falling temperatures, the turnout on Sunday was a strong signal that the government may have miscalculated.

At exactly 9 p.m. local time, tens of thousands of Romanians, using pieces of colored paper and the lights from their cellphones, created a vast Romanian flag across the square. Temperatures hovered around 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

According to Florin Badita, 28, an activist who has helped rally people through a Facebook group he created after a deadly nightclub fire in 2015 — a disaster partly blamed on corruption — the protests are far from over.

“This won’t be the last night. We haven’t won anything yet. If we don’t go out now we’ll need to in six months, when there’s the next big thing,” he said.

Mr. Badita, who took unpaid leave from his job in the northern city of Cluj to participate in the Bucharest protests, said he also believed the momentum would grow.

“I think the main thing is that now people know that there are a lot of people wanting change,” he said. “What we want to do is build this in a sustainable way, and also to train citizens in things like the Freedom of Information Act. We can go out all the time to protest, but we need to do more.”

Others also said that they saw the potential for these protests to develop into a more long-term movement.

“The success of these protests, resulting in the withdrawal of the ordinance, has boosted the most active of the protesters in their commitment to a more sustained and permanent kind of organization,” said Sergiu Miscoiu, a professor of political science at Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj.

“This involves maybe only a quarter or even a tenth of last Sunday’s demonstrators, but it will be enough to put pressure on the government,” he said.

www.nytimes.com/2017/02/12/world/europe/romania-bucharest-protests-corruption.html