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Row over cleaning up Romanian politics literally heads onto the streets

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Row over cleaning up Romanian politics literally heads onto the streets

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Vlad Cioplea
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On Saturday evening, supporters of Romania's governing party, all dressed in white, gathered in Bucharest to protests against the so-called “parallel state” and alleged abuses by anti-corruption prosecutors who have targeted several top politicians.

Buses were hired to bring the demonstrators from across the country with media reports putting the crowd at almost 150,000 people. They complained that corruption rules were being used to subvert democracy.

Once the mass of people had dispursed, a battle began over the aftermath. Bucharest's Victory Square was left littered with hundreds of placards, empty water bottles and food waste.

Photos of the mess quickly went viral on social media. The pictures were accompanied by captions expressing anger and frustration:

“Romania, this is what you are”

“I’m being reassured this is Romania”

Members of the #rezist anti-corruption opposition movement, took the opportunity to step in, posting videos on Facebook showing themselves helping the city’s sanitation department clean the square right after the pro-government supporters left.

Over the last year and a half, Victory Square which houses the Romanian government has become a landmark for demonstrations organised by #rezist, who made a point of arranging a cleanup afterwards.

The Bucharest City Hall, run by a member of the ruling Social-Democratic (PSD) party who had been present at the white rally, issued a press release suggesting that the help was unnecessary and that “immediately after the manifestation ended sanitation personnel employed by organisers swiftly intervened to clean up the area.”

The organizing ruling party has yet to issue an official statement but social-democratic chief, Liviu Dragnea replied to questions from the #rezist movement by saying that “200 sanitation employees are taking care of the area.”

The rally was organized by the government coalition as a response to the several anti-government street protests held against PSD attempts to modify the Penal Code and decriminalize several corruption offences.

Party boss, Liviu Dragnea together with other leading politicians, some under criminal investigation, spoke at the rally accusing prosecutors of using their powers for political persecution. Dragnea himself is convicted in a vote-rigging case, banning him from the post of prime minister and he now awaits court decision in two other separate corruption cases.

The government wants to remove the head of the anti-corruption investigators, and last month won a court decision overturning the president's attempts to block the move

The president, Klaus Iohannis, ridiculed the white rally as “strange and funny”, pointing out the head-scratching move that “not since communist times had a ruling party staged a self-praising manifestation like this one.”