ROMANIANS are not often thought of as combustible folk. That may change after the country was overrun by street protests that show no sign of letting up. Bucharest, the capital, saw its worst violence for 20 years, as protesters burnt tyres and scuffled with riot police. Dozens were hurt and the city centre was damaged.
The riots were started by a public spat between Raed Arafat, a popular health-care official, and Traian Basescu, Romania’s president, over a plan to privatise a medical-emergency system set up by Mr Arafat. The Palestinian-born doctor quit after Mr Basescu had called a television talk show to denounce his “leftist views”.
The pro-Arafat demonstrations began on January 13th and reached their violent peak two days later, thanks partly to football hooligans, well used to fighting with the police. On January 16th the police made over 100 arrests. That largely stopped the violence but did not quell the anger. As the protests spread, the government said it would rethink its health plans. On January 17th it gave Mr Arafat his job back, pledging that he would be part of the team working to revise the proposals. “Not even the president is perfect,” said Emil Boc, the prime minister, blaming the crisis on “misunderstandings”. Mr Arafat said he was amazed by his support.
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