BUCHAREST, Romania, Nov. 4 (UPI) — The prime minister of Romania resigned Wednesday as a result of a 20,000-person-strong protest condemning a Bucharest nightclub fire that killed dozens.
At least 32 people died Friday after a blaze was set off by a band using fireworks. About 20,000 demonstrators gathered on Tuesday to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Victor Ponta, who previously faced corruption accusations.
At least 100 people remain hospitalized after the fire, some in critical condition. Protesters blame Ponta’s government for granting permits easily and for performing inadequate safety inspections of public venues.
“I have the obligation to acknowledge that there is legitimate anger in society,” Ponta said in a statement. “People feel the need for more, and it would be wrong of me to ignore this.”
Ponta has continuously denied the corruption allegations. He became the first sitting Romanian prime minister to go to trial over charges of fraud, tax evasion and money laundering.
“I do not want nor do I think it is fair to leave this responsibility on those who have been in the field or on the mayors, secretaries of state, ministers,” Ponta said. “I am ready to be the one to make this gesture that parts of society are waiting for, and starting today, I am resigning my mandate as prime minister. I do this because in my years as a politician I put up a fight in any battle with political opponents. However, I won’t put up a fight against the people.”
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said he was “impressed” by the protesters and the “desire of people to have their condition and dignity respected.”
“I understood that they ask and expect, rightly so, for someone to assume political responsibility,” Iohannis said in a statement.
Ponta’s resignation is expected to formally occur at a government meeting at 4 p.m. local time.