Several people hurt in Bucharest anti-austerity protest

  • Published
Clashes in Bucharest. Photo: 14 January 2012
Image caption,
Protesters are now demanding the resignation of President Traian Basescu

Romanian riot police have fired tear gas during clashes with demonstrators protesting against austerity cuts in the capital, Bucharest.

At least nine people, including policemen, were injured in what was the third consecutive day of protests.

The rallies began in solidarity with a popular health official who had quit in protest against health care reforms.

But the protests have since widened to include general discontent with the government's policies.

There were smaller demonstrations in other Romanian cities as well.

Unlikely catalyst

The clashes erupted on Saturday as the protesters marched towards Bucharest's University Square.

The demonstrators pelted police with stones, who used tear gas in response.

Among the injured was a local TV journalist. Some 30 people were detained.

Image caption,
Raed Arafat resigned as deputy health minister last Tuesday

The unlikely catalyst for the latest demonstrations was the resignation of popular health official Raed Arafat.

The Palestinian-born doctor came to Romania in the 1980s, and is a well-known and much-liked figure, due to the practical changes he made to improve the emergency services, the BBC's Nick Thorpe reports.

Dr Arafat stepped down as deputy health minister last Tuesday, after a series of public attacks against him by President Traian Basescu, our correspondent adds.

Dr Arafat opposed government measures to partially privatise Romania's shaky health care system.

President Basescu later announced that he was scrapping the unpopular reform, but that has failed to soothe the demonstrators' anger, our correspondent says.

He says they are now calling for Mr Basescu to resign and hold early elections.