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Thousands of Romanians protest ruling party’s judicial overhaul plans

BUCHAREST, Nov 5 (Reuters) – Thousands of Romanians were protesting in the capital Bucharest and cities across the country on Sunday against plans by the ruling Social Democrats to overhaul judicial legislation.

The plans, initially announced by the justice minister in August and currently in under debate in parliament, could put the judicial system under political control in one of the European Union’s most corrupt states.

Thousands of magistrates, centrist President Klaus Iohannis, the European Commission and diplomats have all expressed concern about the proposed legal changes.

An estimated 12,000 people were marching towards parliament in Bucharest on Sunday shouting “We don’t want to be a nation of thieves”.

Thousands more were protesting across the country.

The ruling Social Democrat Party has said it aims to approve the judicial overhaul by the end of this parliamentary session. The most contested changes include overhauling a judicial inspection unit, which oversees magistrates’ conduct and the way in which chief prosecutors are appointed.

Earlier this year, attempts by the ruling coalition to weaken a crackdown on high-level corruption triggered Romania’s largest street protests in decades.

Judicial and fiscal changes have dominated the Social Democrats’ agenda since coming to power following an election last December.

Plans to significantly overhaul the country’s taxes have put pressure on Romanian assets. The president and major investors’ associations have urged the government to scrap the changes which they have said will throw the economy into upheaval and strain the budget deficit.

A major trade union has started the process of calling a general strike and other unions have announced protests set for later this month. The government postponed a meeting to discuss the fiscal changes until Nov. 6. (Reporting by Luiza Ilie; editing by Jason Neely)

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