Thousands of Romanian demonstrators roamed the capital, blocked traffic and demanded the government's resignation Saturday in a third day of noisy protests against price increases.
The demonstrations underlined the fragility of newly elected governments in Eastern Europe's former communist states as they try to switch from central planning to a market economy.Gasoline prices sparked protests last month in neighboring Hungary.
The protests in Bucharest were ostensibly triggered when the National Salvation Front government scrapped price subsidies three days ago, but most slogans were directed more specifically at President Ion Iliescu, a former communist.
Separate groups of protesters, young and old from all walks of life, marched to government headquarters and to the state television station, where they denounced broadcasters as communists.
Others blocked traffic through University Square, the main venue of anti-government unrest since Iliescu's National Salvation Front took power last December after the ousting and execution of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in a popular revolt.
The demonstrators waved national flags and flaming newspapers, and shouted "Iliescu, you will fall."
"Resign, resign," they yelled. Some carried Ceausescu pictures, implying Iliescu, who summoned miners to Bucharest to beat up protesters in June, was no better than the late tyrant.
Prime Minister Petre Roman stripped price subsidies from everything but staple foods, power, heating, gasoline and rents as part of his plan to convert Romania from a communist-style centrally planned economy to a market economy.
He promised cash handouts to soften the measure, under which the prices of all non-essentials will double.
"The little owl is singing at Cotroceni," the protesters shouted. Cotroceni is the presidential residence and Romanians believe the singing of an owl is an omen of trouble or death.
"I could get along with the price rises only if I had Roman's salary," chemical worker Viorel Neagu, 35, said. "I can't even buy a pair of shoes with the handout the government is going to pay."
Roman has promised workers $21 and pensioners $11 this month to offset price rises.