Romanian education minister fired, Bucharest prepares for huge anti-government demonstration

Ecaterina Andronescu, Romania’s minister of education, has become the latest high-level official to be forced out of office in the wake of the brutal murder of a 15-year-old girl. The country’s interior minister resigned last week, after just six days in the job.

Mrs Andronescu, long a deeply unpopular figure, suggested in a television interview that Alexandra Maceșanu, abducted, raped and murdered in the town of Caracal on July 24, was partly to blame because she had been hitch-hiking.

“I was taught from a very young age never to get into cars with strangers,” said the former minister.

Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă said on August 2 that Andronescu’s remarks had demonstrated “a lack of understanding.”

Gheorghe Dinca, a 66-year-old engineer, has been charged with the girl’s rape and murder. DNA tests on human remains found in his courtyard confirmed them as being those of Ms Maceșanu.

The education minister’s comments were all the more controversial given that the Romanian government, led by Mrs Andronescu’s Social Democrats (PSD) has cut funding for rural public transport, leaving many people with no choice but to hitch-hike.

The Romanian government has been fiercely criticised by civil society for the manner in which authorities failed to respond to Ms Maceșanu’s appeals for help.

There have been calls for the entire government to resign, with opposition leaders calling for a complete overhaul of state institutions.

A large demonstration is planned for August 10 in the capital Bucharest, with tens of thousands of people expected to demand the government’s resignation. A similar protest on the same date last year ended in violence when forces loyal to the PSD attacked peaceful demonstrators with tear gas and batons. No officials have yet been brought to trial for the brutal intervention which left more than 250 people injured.