Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis has rejected the left-wing Social Democrats’ candidate for prime minister, Sevil Shhaideh, who would have been the EU nation’s first female and Muslim prime minister.
President Iohannis has not elaborated on his reason for rejecting the candidacy of Shhaideh, a 52-year-old politician of Turkish origin who comes from Romania’s 65,000-strong Muslim community.
“I have properly analysed the arguments for and against and I have decided not to accept this proposal,” Klaus Iohannis said in a televised statement on Tuesday, December 27, 2016.
“I call on the PSD coalition to make another proposal.”
The PSD, which has yet to comment on the issue, had put forward Shhaideh after its sweeping election victory on December 11 when it won 45 percent of the vote.
The PSD, along with its junior coalition partner and longtime ally ALDE, control 250 of the combined 465 seats in the two-house assembly – enough majority for their leader to be elected as the prime minister.
Liviu Dragnea, leader of the PSD, had withdrawn his bid to become prime minister because he is serving a two-year suspended sentence for electoral fraud.
Shhaideh’s political experience is limited; she served as development minister for six months before the previous PSD-led government resigned in late 2015.
This and her personal closeness to Dragnea – he was a witness at her 2011 wedding to a Syrian businessman – have spurred opposition accusations that she would merely be a puppet.
Rise Project, a member of the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project of investigative journalists, said this month that Shhaideh’s husband had posted messages on his Facebook account in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The PSD, which promised higher wages and pensions during the election campaign, had hoped Dragnea would stand for prime minister but Iohannis made clear he would refuse any candidate with a criminal record.
The PSD’s election triumph came barely a year since anger over a deadly nightclub fire that killed 64 people forced it and Victor Ponta, the prime minister, from office.