‘What the government does, the streets can undo’ may seem like just a slogan, but weeks of anti-austerity protests have forced the resignation Romania's prime minister Emil Boc.
The protests began when a solidarity demonstration with Deputy Health Minister Raed Arafat, who announced his resignation in opposition to a draft healthcare reform bill that represented a partial privatisation of the healthcare system, took a violent turn.
Riot police used tear gas against protesters, who responded by throwing bricks and Molotov cocktails.
The next few days saw the most brutal protests since the 1990s, with thousands of people out in the streets in 34 counties demonstrating against public sector wage cuts, reduced benefits, increasing youth unemployment, higher value added tax and widespread corruption.
Romania is one of the poorest countries in the European Union, with an average salary of €350/month, and president Traian Basescu’s austerity measures have been deeply unpopular among students and workers alike.
Demonstrators are now calling for him to step down, 4 years after he became the first president in Romanian history to be suspended from office and 2 years after his widely contested re-election.
In the first days of unrest, the controversial draft healthcare bill was withdrawn. In the first week, Deputy Health Minister Raed Arafat was reinstated. On Monday, Prime Minister Emil Boc resigned, along with his cabinet. It is now the 27th day of demonstrations in University Square, and, despite the snow and the -21°C temperatures, protesters say they aren’t leaving until the government does.