BUCHAREST: Romania's Parliament began debating a motion of no-confidence against the government on Wednesday, as about 30,000 people demonstrated in Bucharest against the nation's wage cuts and austerity measures.
A group of angry protesters briefly scuffled with anti-riot police outside the Parliament building during the debate, but no injuries were immediately reported.
The protesters marched through Bucharest in chilly weather, blocking traffic and shouting: "Down with the government!"
They included public workers whose salaries have been cut by the government such as teachers, medical staff and policemen, and some private sector employees.
The no-confidence vote and the public uproar came as International Monetary Fund employees were visiting Romania to review the country's ailing economy.
Romania took a euro20 billion ($27.8 billion) loan from the IMF, the European Union and the World Bank last year when its economy shrank by 7.1 percent. In return, Romania pledged to cut spending and the government took harsh measures, slashing public sector wages by one-fourth and increasing sales tax from 19 percent to 24 percent.
Carpenter George Vieru, 22, said he traveled to Bucharest from the eastern city of Iasi on Wednesday "to stand by the others who have been affected."
Vasilica Cristea, 43, who works for an energy company, said was protesting in support of teachers, policemen and other public workers suffering what she called "abusive measures."
Policeman Catalin Marinescu, 35, said he came from southern Romania to protest the salary cuts, planned layoffs and a proposal to increase the retirement age of Romanians.
The opposition Social Democrats and Liberals said they filed the no-confidence motion to oppose the centrist government's harsh measures designed to combat Romania's economic crisis.
They will need 236 votes to topple the government. The opposition parties have 212 votes but hope some lawmakers from the governing coalition will switch sides in the secret ballot.
Victor Ponta, the leader of the Social Democrats, has claimed they need to persuade only a few more lawmakers to oust the government.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Emil Boc asked the legislators to reject the no-confidence motion, saying opposition proposals would further weaken the economy. Boc said that he understands people's discontent, but he added they "must understand that the government did what it had to limit the effects of the crisis and to pull the country out of recession."
The opposition said it would scrap the reduction in public wages and renegotiate Romania's commitments to the IMF, the EU and the World Bank.
This is the second no-confidence vote Boc has faced in the last 10 months. In October 2009, Romania's government at the time — also led by Boc — was dismissed by such a vote.