BUCHAREST, Romania — Tens of thousands of Romanians took to the streets around the country to protest Saturday for the fifth consecutive day, prompting the coalition government to suggest it could back down on its decree decriminalizing official misconduct.
The backpedaling comments were designed to head off huge anti-government protests planned for Sunday night, predicted to be the largest the country has seen since communism collapsed in 1989.
Still, they did not appease protesters, who marched through Bucharest on Saturday and formed a human chain around the Palace of the Parliament built by late Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu. There were also large-scale protests Saturday evening in the cities of Cluj, Timisoara, Sibiu, Constanta and Brasov.
The government has come under huge pressure at home and abroad to repeal the emergency decree passed Wednesday, which waters down the country's anti-corruption fight.
In the first suggestion of a concession floated by the center-left government, Liviu Dragnea, head of the ruling Social Democratic Party, told DC News that he would meet with Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu to "propose a solution."
"We can possibly talk about repealing the decree, if the prime minister agrees," Dragnea said Saturday.
Dragnea controls the government and he will have the final word on a measure from which he could directly benefit.
Dragnea is banned by law from serving as prime minister because he was handed a two-year prison sentence in April 2016 for vote rigging. The decree, which was passed by the Social Democrats in an emergency measure and not debated in parliament, could allow him to be prime minister, as his supporters want.
Other government officials also hinted at a compromise.
"A possible repeal of the decree will allow us to have a serious discussion with wide segments from society ... on how we build the future of the country," said Senate speaker Calin Popescu Tariceanu, who heads the junior governing Alliance of Democratic Liberals.
In the meantime, their opponents were not giving up.
Adults came to the protest in Bucharest with their children or dogs, stressing the peaceful nature of the rally to fight corruption. One child held a banner saying "I want to grow up in Romania," and other children made drawings.
Cristian Busuioc, a father, came with his 11-year-old son.
"I want to explain to him ... what democracy means, and the way the ones who govern must create laws for the people and not against them or in their own interest," he said.