Romanians take to streets in austerity winter

Fri Jan 27, 2012 7:26am EST
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By Sam Cage and Radu Marinas

BUCHAREST, Jan 27 - In December 1989, art student Titi Amzar risked his life to join the demonstrations in University Square that brought down reviled communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

Now 43, Amzar is back on the square demanding much the same thing - a new leader for Romania.

"All these post-communist governments have been incompetent," Amzar, now a designer, told Reuters at the crossing of broad boulevards in central Bucharest where some 50 protesters were killed more than 20 years ago.

"The political class is the main culprit for the collapse of our economic system and the ills of the society."

Protests against President Traian Basescu and his close ally, Prime Minister Emil Boc, have occurred daily for two weeks and spread around the country, initially against proposed health reforms but quickly broadening to express unhappiness with tough austerity measures and corruption.

Many demonstrators, like Amzar, have also criticized the opposition and questioned if any of Romania's current leaders can fix the country's problems.

The unrest, the worst in more than a decade, is still far from serious enough to sway policy or threaten the government.

But it may derail Boc's chances in parliamentary elections late in 2012 and leave Basescu, who will not face the voters until presidential elections in 2014, stuck in an unhappy marriage with his opponents.   Continued...

<p>Demonstrators shout slogans during snowfall during a protest against the government at Universitatii square in central Bucharest January 26, 2012. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti</p>