Thousands of people marched through Romania's capital and other cities to protest a government proposal to pardon thousands of prisoners.

Protesters massed in Bucharest's University Square on Sunday said the move would set back anti-corruption efforts in Romania and called the ruling Social Democratic Party "the red plague."

Premier Sorin Grindeanu has requested an emergency ordinance allowing the government to pardon prisoners to ease prison overcrowding.

Critics say the proposal would benefit party allies convicted of corruption. Romania's top prosecutor has criticized the plan.

It would primarily affect people serving sentences of less than five years, except those convicted of sexual or violent crimes.

Prisoners over age 60, pregnant women and inmates with young children would see their sentences halved regardless of the charges on which they were convicted.