On Friday, March 15, the people of Romania will stop working at precisely 15:00 hours for 15 minutes. The shut-down is an innovative form of protest demanding the construction of roads and motorways across the country. But the demonstration also has a wider meaning: complaining about governmental incompetence and corruption, along with the neglect of the basic needs of the population.
The person behind the protest is a young Romanian businessman, Stefan Mandachi (pictured above, with his one metre of motorway). He began the campaign by financing and building a one-metre long stretch of motorway close to his home in the north of Romania. On March 15, this new motorway will be symbolically ’opened’. Since the construction of his small ‘road to nowhere’, more and more organisations across the country have announced their solidarity with his cause, and thousands of citizens are expected to stop working for 15 minutes at that time.
Stefan Mandachi, who owns a chain of restaurants, says he was prompted to act after years of frustration with the government’s failure to improve basic infrastructure in the country during the 30 years since the revolution which brought down communism.
Every year, more than 2,000 people die on the dangerous and dilapidated roads in Romania. This figure is more than the total number of people who died in the revolution itself. Not only this, but businesses also suffer, and there are also steep environmental costs. Mandachi began the campaign for new motorways as a first step in demanding that the government takes responsibility for its citizens’ needs.
What started out as one small step for Mandachi is turning into a giant leap for Romanians. This is the most recent in a series of protests as citizens become ever more active in voicing their grievances against what they see as a broken political system. The campaign has begun to snowball, with some people already calling for a general strike as a way of sending a clear message to the government that ’enough is enough’.
The success of this latest campaign seems to lie in the fact that it has a positive rather than negative message: rather than simply being against something (e.g. corruption), it is advocating concrete change (i.e. investment in better transport). This has created a movement which unifies people from various backgrounds and with different political views towards a common cause.
The views expressed in this opinion editorial are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Emerging Europe’s editorial policy.