Monday, January 23, 2012

Romanian anti-government protests enter 10th day

Sun, Jan 22 2012

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Protests demanding the Romanian government resign over its austerity measures continued for a tenth successive day in the capital Bucharest Sunday and in some other cities around the country.

The occasionally violent demonstrations were initially sparked by the resignation of a popular deputy health minister but quickly spread to demand President Traian Basescu and Prime Minister Emil Boc resign.

Boc cut public salaries by a quarter in 2010 and raised sales tax by five percentage points, which have delayed recovery from a deep recession in the European Union's second poorest country, to maintain an International Monetary Fund-led deal.

About 600 people met again at Bucharest's central University Square, symbolic for its role in Romania's anti-communist 1989 revolution, chanting "Down with Basescu" and "Resign" in freezing temperatures and snow flurries.

The unrest in Romania is far from the size of protests in other austerity-hit European countries like Greece, Spain and France but marks the country's worst violence in more than a decade.

A rally of some 7,000 opposition supporters last week was Bucharest's biggest since 2010, when austerity measures were first passed, and more protests are planned for next week.

Opinion polls put Boc's centrist PDL at 18 percent support, compared with about 50 percent for the USL, and analysts say the protests are unlikely to affect policy or force the government out at this stage.

(Reporting by Sam Cage)

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