Romania’s new leftist government Decriminalised a number of graft offences including some abuse-of-power cases in the ex-communist state’s biggest retreat on anti-corruption reforms since it joined the European Union a decade ago.

More than 10,000 people gathered outside government headquarters in the capital, Bucharest, in freezing temperatures shortly after the emergency decree was announced.

Protesters in Bucharest shouted: “thieves!” and “traitors!” and called for the government to resign.

Romania’s leftists swept into power in December, promising higher wages and pensions in a parliamentary election that underscored a deepening divide between older rural voters, tired of austerity, and younger city-dwellers.

Their plans to ease anti-corruption rules were unveiled earlier this month, triggering the largest street protests since the 1989 fall of communism.