Thousands of Romanians who live abroad flocked to an anti-government protest in Bucharest on Friday, urging the left-wing government to resign and call an early election.
The expatriates, some of whom drove across Europe to attend the demonstration, are angry about how Romania is being governed by the Social Democrats.
Since the party won power in 2016, the government has proposed new laws that critics say weaken the nation’s fight against corruption.
An estimated three million Romanians are living abroad, and some say they left because of corruption, low wages and lack of opportunities.
“We don’t want our country to be governed by thieves who line their own pockets,” said Georgeta Anghel, 43, who has lived in Valencia, Spain, for 14 years.
“If nothing changes here, what kind of future will our son have in the future?”
Liviu Dragnea, the head of the Social Democrats, has received a three and a half year prison sentence for abuse of power in office.
He is appealing against that decision.
He is unable to be prime minister due to another conviction in 2016 for vote-rigging.
Hundreds of thousands have signed a petition demanding a law that would ban people charged with corruption and other offences from office, but it is unlikely to pass Parliament where the Social Democrats and their allies have a majority.
The protesters on Friday waved Romanian, EU, Spanish, Italian and other flags, yelled “Justice, not corruption” and called the ruling party “the red plague” outside government offices in the capital.
Protesters briefly scuffled with riot police when they tried to break through a police line guarding the government offices. At least one man was detained.
Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis, a critic of the government, said he “firmly condemned the brutal intervention of riot police”, which he called a disproportionate reaction to a protest where most were peaceful.
Cristina Andrei arrived from Stockholm, Sweden, where she lives now with her two sons.
“I’ve come here for my children, who don’t know how to read or write Romanian,” the 42-year-old cashier said.
“This country is rich and beautiful but it’s run by thieves.”