Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta resigned Wednesday after large protests took place in the capital, Bucharest, following a deadly nightclub fire that left 32 people dead and many more injured. More than 20,000 protesters took to the streets demanding Ponta’s resignation following the Friday fire, the BBC reported.
“I'm handing in my mandate, I'm resigning and implicitly my government too,” Ponta, 43, said in a statement. “I hope the government's resignation will satisfy the people who came out in the streets.”
Protests had swelled in recent days with people yelling “Shame on you!” at Ponta, Interior Minister Gabriel Oprea and Cristian Popescu Piedone, the district mayor where the nightclub Colectiv was located, the Associated Press reported. Protesters carried banners that read “corruption kills” and blamed problems that led to the fire on poor safety standards stemming from corruption.
“I have the obligation to acknowledge that there is legitimate anger in society,” Ponta said in the statement. “People feel the need for more, and it would be wrong of me to ignore this.”
The blaze in the nightclub Colectiv began after the band Goodbye to Gravity set off fireworks. More than 400 people had come for the free concert. Three club owners were arrested, and protesters have alleged that the club was overcrowded, did not have the number of emergency exits required and did not have the necessary permits for the concert. Doctors said they thought the death toll could rise as there are more than 100 people still in the hospital with burns and other injuries from the fire.
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis wrote on Facebook Tuesday that “political responsibility” had to be assumed. “The next step is for politicians, who cannot ignore this sentiment of revolt,” he wrote.
Ponta had been in office for over three years, but pressure had been building against him. In September, he became the first sitting Romanian head of government to go to trial over charges including tax evasion, money laundering and fraud. Ponta has denied the allegations levied against him from 2007 and 2008 when he was working as an attorney.
Iohannis was expected to name an interim prime minister and convene talks with political parties to form a new government. A government meeting was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, the New York Times reported.