Romanian Protests: What Data Tells Us
These past couple of weeks Romania witnessed massive protests in Bucharest and many other cities, such as Timișoara, Cluj-Napoca, Iași, Sibiu, Brașov, Arad, Galați, Craiova, Constanța, and Alba-Iulia. More than 250,000 Romanians demonstrated on Wednesday against a government decree decriminalizing some graft offenses. The measure takes effect in 10 days. Once it does it will stop all ongoing investigations for these kinds of offenses and it will also prevent the launching of any subsequent probes related to these offenses. Another decree adopted Tuesday night could also free some officials who are in prison for corruption. Some of the major consequences of the government decrees are the decriminalization of official misconduct in which the financial damage is less than 200,000 RON, as well as amnesty laws for some prisoners serving sentences of less than five years, and sentences halved for those over 60.
Considering the numerous implications of the recent events, Questia Group decided to ask its members what their opinions on this topic are. The research was made through an online survey on our platform www.questia.ro, covering 1,216 respondents, with a plus or minus 3% margin of error. The online survey was active for five hours Wednesday, 2nd of February. The results are briefly presented below.
Asked whether they agree with the government’s decision - regarding the adoption through an emergency ordinance - to change the Criminal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and the amnesty project, 80.3% are against and 16.1% are in favor, while 3.5% refused to answer. The results are mirroring the current events.
As for the PSD (Social Democratic Party) supporters – the party which has a majority in the Parliament together with ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats) and that appointed the government – the answers are tight. For instance, 52.2% of PSD supporters said they agree with the government’s decision, while 47.5% say they don't agree. ALDE supporters are also divided in their answers: 56.9% support the decision, while 43.1% don’t support it.
Against the government’s decision are PNL (National Liberal Party) supporters (98.2%), USR (Save Romania Union) supporters (98%), PMP (People's Movement Party) supporters (92.2%) and the ones who don’t support any parties (95%).
We also asked our respondents whether the actual protests will lead (or not) to the implementation of the emergency ordinance. In this case, the results show a tight polarization: 46.9% think that the protests won’t affect the government’s decision, while 44.3% think that the results will push the government not to apply the provisions of the ordinance after the 10 days’ deadline.
As for PSD supporters, only 25.8% consider that the protests will impact the government’s decision, while the majority (74.2%) consider that the protests are in vain. ALDE supporters have similar opinions: 83.3% consider that the protests are in vain, while only 16.7% are more optimistic.
Only USR supporters are more optimistic about the protests’ consequences (65.1%), while PNL supporters are balanced in their views: 56.5% are optimistic, 43.5% are pessimistic. Those who declared that they don’t support any party have similar views – 56.1% consider the protests will have an impact the Government’s decision, while 43.9% think that the mass mobilization is in vain.
The results are quite interesting in two directions. Firstly, the fact that PSD supporters have different viewpoints of the Government’s action. Could some of the protesters that shouted “Traitors!” these days come from the PSD electorate? And if so, how will this polarization affect the party in the future? What are PSD party members’ views on these events? As for now, one Romanian minister quit over government corruption stance
Secondly, these protests are the largest since the fall of communist regime in 1989, when people took it to the streets in large numbers throughout the country. The issue of corruption has been a major agenda-setting point since Romania’s pre and post-accession to the EU. The European Commission, which has Romania's justice system under special monitoring, warned against the government's decision. However, most people are rather skeptic about the protests' impact on the government’s decision to withdraw the ordinances. Thus, this issue is quite contradictory, as events unfold.