The protests were the most serious since President Traian Basescu came to power in 2004 and were the result of pent-up frustration against public wage cuts, slashed benefits, higher taxes and widespread corruption.
In 2009, Romania took a two-year €20 billion ($27.5 billion) loan from the International Monetary Fund, the EU and the World Bank, as its economy shrank by 7.1 percent. Romania imposed harsh austerity measures under the agreement, reducing public wages by 25 percent and increasing taxes.
The unlikely catalyst for the protests, however, was the resignation of popular health official Raed Arafat, a Palestinian with Romanian citizenship who opposed health reforms proposed by the government. On Friday, Basescu told the government to scrap the reforms, but public anger had already risen against Basescu and the government.