‘We Want a Better Life in a Better Country’
For the ninth straight day, Elena Filip bundled up in her fur-trimmed ski suit and left her Bucharest apartment for Piata Victoriei — Victory Square — outside the government headquarters.
“The most important thing when I go to protest is to have in mind it’s freezing cold outside,” Ms. Filip said. “I always have my ski suit with me because at minus 15 degrees you cannot be fashionable or picky.”
By the time she arrived on the square Wednesday, a light snow had fallen, and her fellow protesters had spelled “REZIST” — the unofficial social-media slogan of the demonstrations — in the fresh powder.
Crowds have convened in central Bucharest nightly since lawmakers announced plans last month for an emergency decree, which decriminalized some corruption offenses. The square has been the focal point of the mounting protests.
“It’s not about the decree anymore,” said Ms. Filip, 28, who works in public relations. “It is about the fact that we want a better life in a better country.”
Romanians have braved snowy, freezing weather in a show of opposition, forcing the government to withdraw the corruption decree days after it was issued.
“I’m not exactly the type of person who goes to protests all the time,” Ms. Filip said. “We had this problem with the decree that was helping corrupt people to escape prison. I was very motivated.”
She kept showing up in the square in the evenings, after work, outraged by what she and other protesters say was a cynical move by the government to give politicians a way to avoid accountability. As the days went on, some protesters called for the government to step down.
On Wednesday, Parliament rejected a no-confidence measure that would have led to the resignation of the government, led by the Social Democrats.
By Thursday morning, the justice minister, Florin Iordache, said he would step down. Ms. Filip said this was a sign that the protests were working.
“We need better schools, better hospitals, better roads, and all this can start if the corruption will stop,” she said.
Not all Romanians are demanding that the country’s government resign. A smaller group of pro-government activists gathered near President Klaus Iohannis’s residence on Wednesday night to express support for lawmakers who supported the weakening of anticorruption measures.
Mr. Iohannis, who has been a vocal supporter of the protests in Piata Victoriei, spoke with members of the crowd who were demanding his resignation.
The crowds on Wednesday were significantly smaller than on Sunday, when nearly half a million people rallied across the country. Ms. Filip and other protesters did their best to keep warm, huddling together and jumping in place.
But they have vowed to maintain their rallies outside the government buildings, regardless of the weather, until the prime minister resigns and a new government is formed.
“We don’t need people with criminal record to rule the country,” she said. “We need people with initiative that can see what the problems are.”