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FILE PHOTO: A protester waves Romanian flag during a demonstration in Bucharest, Romania, February 3, 2017. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov/File Photo

(reuters_tickers)

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania's lower house of parliament on Tuesday overwhelmingly endorsed a government order to scrap a graft decree that triggered mass street protests, international condemnation and a consequent U-turn by the month-old cabinet.

The cabinet of Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu enraged people when it quietly approved on Jan. 31 a decree that would have decriminalised several corruption offences, prompting the largest display of anger since the 1989 fall of communism.

The lower house, as expected, backed the order comprehensively by 291 votes to none against with three abstentions.

The upper house of parliament, the senate, approved the withdrawal of the decree last Tuesday after all ruling party leaders agreed to scrap the decree as quickly as possible.

The ruling Social Democrat-led coalition holds a comfortable majority in both houses of parliament following its victory in the Dec. 11 election.

The decree would have shielded dozens of public officials from prosecution and would have undermined a drive to stamp out high-level graft.

After the protests, the decree was repealed and its main architect, Justice Minister Florin Iordache, resigned.

Last week, parliament unanimously endorsed a presidential plan to hold a national referendum over anti-corruption reforms.

President Klaus Iohannis, a former leader of the centre-right opposition, strongly criticised the government over the decree but has not yet set a date for the referendum.

The wording on the ballot paper will be up to the president, who said last month he wanted to hold the vote to see "the sovereign desire of Romanians" over the anti-graft drive.

(Reporting by Radu Marinas, editing by Ed Osmond)

Reuters