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Let me try to set up the context first: Romania, East European developing country, ex-behind the Iron Curtain, now in NATO and European Union.

The following events have actually happened. Some assumptions are made (e.g. why the Government actually feel) though.

End of October 2015 - a nightclub fire takes more than 60 lives. This event shows serious problems related to how Town Hall, National Health System and other institutions work (mainly corruption) and many people go on public strikes. About 60-70,000 people demanded Government resignation.

Back then, both the Parliament and the Government were controlled by the Socialist (or their satellite parties), but it was also one year before the general elections. Also, there some external pressure (EU, USA), so they allowed the fall of the Government, the President nominated a EU technocrat.

Mid December 2016 - Socialists and their satellites have won the elections (50% + 1 in both Chambers of the Parliament). The Government is also controlled by them. Only the President is from the opposition now.

Mid January 2017 - Socialists tried to secretly issue a Government decision that contains significant changes of Criminal Law. Shortly put, these changes allowed some notorious thieves to be freed from prison or charges against them to be dropped. Also, stealing from public funds becomes much more difficult to prosecute.

The President tricked them by coming to the Government meeting. By law, he leads the meeting if he is there, so everything became public.

People got out in the streets, but there are less than 30000 in several major cities.

Question: Is it possible that these protests change what politicians are going to do?

Their regime was just legitimized. Also, the international context is far from being so favorable to hope from external pressure (e.g. USA has just changed the President, there is no Ambassador to convey the usual "anti-corruption" message).

[EDIT] I will try to tighten the question to make it answerable.

Considering current political context - elections less than 2 months ago that brought current politicians to power (legitimization), reduced American political pressure for anti-corruption laws (usually expressed by the Ambassador) and no immediate popularity loss effects (next general elections in 4 years) - are there any political mechanisms that might help the protesters of blocking adaption of these law changes?

NOTE: Recently, I have found out about a principle called "the principle of the most favorable criminal law" that states that the most favorable criminal law should be applied, if the "favorable law" overlaps with the incarceration period. So, even if the change is done for a single day and then rejected in the Parliament, this principle can be applied.

closed as unclear what you're asking by Martin Tournoij, K Dog, Brythan, bytebuster, Bradley Wilson Jan 24 '17 at 14:01

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  • This question is full of hypotheticals, but I assume it's about Romania? Even then it's more reading tea leaves (i.e. primarily opinion based) than anything else, and not a great question. – Martin Tournoij Jan 23 '17 at 3:54
  • @Carpetsmoker - yes, it is about Romania, but not full of hypotheses. All these things actually happened (I can provide links to many of them, but they are mainly in Romanian). The reasons behind fall of the Government back in 2015 where never said like this, but many analysts think this is actually what happened. I am interested in how the political process may work in such contexts and I can provide extra context if needed. – Alexei Jan 23 '17 at 5:54
  • not full of hypotheses. All these things actually happened -> Well, in the question it's phrased as a hypothetical situation. – Martin Tournoij Jan 23 '17 at 5:54
  • @Carpetsmoker - I have added extra context information, so that the question does not look like a thought experiment. Maybe they should add this extra tip to the question about governments, policies and political processes? information when asking the question. It would really help the newbies. – Alexei Jan 23 '17 at 5:59
  • Is the question, "Are politicians changing their behavior?" Or is it, "Might they choose to change their behavior?" The latter is trivially true. The former may be hard to answer objectively. Can you tighten the question so as to ask for an objective answer? – Brythan Jan 23 '17 at 10:37
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While anything is possible, if the ruling party feels secure enough to pass such a blatantly corrupt law then the protest on its own will probably not deter them. While plotting on how to pass a law might be secret, at some point the law must go through Parliament and be put in the public record, no matter how low key they make it or what bill they paperclip it to. However, that does not mean that the protest would be entirely useless:

  1. Even though few people show up to the first one, it might get others interested enough to look more closely
  2. An opposition politician might latch onto the protest sentiment and use it to launch a counter-campaign to the law in an attempt to increase their fame, possibly even to try to run for President as the "anti-corruption" politician (#ThawTheLake?)
  3. If the protesters have access to the Internet, they may attract international attention by posting on social media

Ultimately, peaceful protests can only accomplish something if the protesters have leverage over the politicians or the government - either because they will vote them out, or because the peaceful protest will turn into riots and revolution. Because of this, it is doubtful that on its own the protest will cause the ruling party to abandon their law, but it may set in motion a chain of events that does put enough pressure on them to abandon it.

  • Thanks for the quick answer. Yes, the protests have "good" media coverage (politically controlled media has another version of what is going on). I also believe that protests alone cannot change much and I wanted to know, considering current context, other mechanism can be used. I have also edited the question. – Alexei Jan 23 '17 at 12:15
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IllusiveBrian's answer is very good.

However, very recent events proved that there is at least one political mechanism that can be used to put pressure on the politicians: the President has initiated a referendum about the changes in the Criminal Laws.

It is his right as a President to initiate such a referendum. This initiative must be sent to the Parliament, but it cannot be blocked (unless declared unconstitutional, which it is very unlikely).

Also, USA Hans Klemm publicly criticized these changes, putting extra pressure.

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Question: Is it possible that these protests change what politicians are going to do?

yes.

did the protests actually change what the politicians were going to do? or the direction of the society?

that's up for debate.

  • 1
    Thanks for the quick reply. Your questions are really interesting, but I was interested in an answer based on provided context (I can provide more based on feedback from comments). I think that protests alone rarely change important things, but the context might really help. – Alexei Jan 22 '17 at 21:43
  • I think only history will tell. Arab spring for example decidedly change the direction of multiple countries in the mid west. the french revolution is also an example. The russian revolution in the early 1900s came from protests as well. – dannyf Jan 22 '17 at 21:45
  • On the flip side, many protests didn't change the outcome. the recent protests in the US for example. the anti-wall street protests a few years back. and all the political protests in China, and other communist countries. ... – dannyf Jan 22 '17 at 21:46
  • My point is that there is no generic rules to say if they do or don't effect change. Some certainly did and other certainly didn't. – dannyf Jan 22 '17 at 21:47

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