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BUCHAREST, Romania — Protests continued in Romanian cities Sunday reflecting widespread anger against austerity measures and an unpopular government.
The protests, in their fourth day, are the most serious since President Traian Basescu came to power in 2004. They are the result of frustration against public wage cuts, slashed benefits, higher taxes, cronyism in state institutions and widespread corruption.
Jan 14 (Reuters) - Thousands of Romanians staged a third straight day of protests on Saturday in the capital Bucharest and other cities, as anger over a healthcare reform bill widened into protest against government austerity measures.
The government pulled its draft healthcare reform bill on Friday after street protests and criticism, but that has failed to assuage the anger of crowds, who called on Saturday for early elections and the resignation of President Traian Basescu.
In 2009, Romania took a two-year euro20 billion ($27.5 billion) loan from the International Monetary Fund, the EU and the World Bank, as its economy shrank by 7.1 percent. Romania imposed harsh austerity measures under the agreement, reducing public wages by 25 percent and increasing taxes.
The unlikely catalyst for the protests, however, was the resignation of popular health official Raed Arafat, a Palestinian with Romanian citizenship who opposed health reforms proposed by the government. On Friday, Basescu told the government to scrap the reforms, but public anger had already risen against Basescu and the government.