Tens of thousands of Romanians took to the streets across the country for the third day on Thursday to protest a decree, passed by the new government, that weakens anti-corruption laws.

The measure has plunged Romania into a political crisis, with President Klaus Iohannis filing a constitutional court challenge to the measure, saying it damages the rule of law and the fight against corruption.

But Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu on Thursday insisted the government, which passed the emergency decree two days earlier, would not withdraw it.

Though police gave no exact figures, the hectare-sized square in front of Romania's parliament building in Bucharest was packed late Thursday. The crowd remained peaceful, after violence broke out on Wednesday night, when a small group attacked police with fireworks and other objects.

Protests took place in other cities across Romania including Timisoara in the west, Cluj in the north-western region of Transylvania and in the university town of Iasi in the north-east.

People also gathered outside town halls in smaller communities across the country to protest.

According to the new decree, a corrupt official will go to jail only if the funds involved exceed 200,000 lei (47,500 dollars). The decree, passed by cabinet, went into effect immediately.

The rule also allows for corrupt officials to escape punishment completely in some instances, for example if the crime occurs between members of the same family.

Protesters say the decree is aimed at protecting Socialist Party leader Liviu Dragnea, who was prevented from becoming prime minister despite his party winning December elections because of an election rigging conviction. Grindeanu is widely regarded as his puppet.

Dragnea is also currently on trial for abuse of power.

"The fight against corruption needs to be advanced, not undone," said Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, and Frans Timmermans, EU commissioner on law and regulation on Wednesday in a statement addressing the decree.

Romania is subject to an EU monitoring mechanism, which was set up as part of the country's accession to the bloc in 2007 to bring Romania in line with EU standards on justice reform and corruption.

The commission warned that any steps undermining Romania's progress towards meeting the EU's standards "would have an impact on any future assessments."

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