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Romanian president Klaus Iohannis rejects country’s first ever Muslim prime minister

Nomination of Sevil Shhaideh is blocked, threatening a political crisis

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Sevil Shhaideh has been on course to become the first Muslim leader of an EU country (Inquam Photos)

Romania’s president has rejected the nomination of the country’s first ever Muslim candidate for prime minister.

President Klaus Iohannis said he had “carefully weighed the arguments for and against” appointing Sevil Shhaideh and had decided not to accept the nomination.

Ms Shhaideh, who is a member of the country’s Muslim Tartar minority, had been put forward by the Social Democratic Party, which comprehensively won Romania’s election earlier this month with 45 per cent of the vote.

She was nominated by party leader Liviu Dragnea, who would normally have assumed the post himself but is unable to do so because of a conviction for electoral fraud.

Some had suggested he was instead planning to run the government through Ms Shhaideh, who has only a few months’ experience in government.

​President Iohannis called on the Social Democrats to pick someone else to lead the government but did not give a reason for rejecting Ms Shhaideh.

Mr Dragnea has previously suggested he will fight any attempt by the president to block his choice of prime minister.

“If Iohannis rejects our proposal, I’m not going to make a second one. We’ll see each other in some other place,” he said.

Following the rejection, Mr Dragnea said he could begin the process of seeking to remove Mr Iohannis as president.

“It seems the president clearly wants to be suspended,” Mr Dragnea said.

“We’ll weigh our options very carefully, because we don’t want to take emotional decisions. We don’t want to trigger a political crisis for nothing, but if we come to the conclusion that the president must be suspended, I won’t hesitate.”

Under Romania’s constitution, Mr Dragnea now has the opportunity to nominate one other candidate for prime minister, who must be accepted by the president. If that does not happen, another election will be held.

Before her nomination was rejected, Ms Shhaideh was on course to become the first Muslim leader of an EU country and the first female Romanian prime minister.

An economist, she previously served for six months as Minister of Regional Development in the last Social Democrat-led government but otherwise has little political experience.

Her nomination by Mr Dragnea came as a shock, with commentators having expected a more senior member of the party to be chosen for the post.

It led to suggestions the party leader was attempting to appoint a prime minister he could easily control.

There is no law preventing Mr Dragnea taking the position himself but President Iohannis was elected on an anti-corruption platform and has said he will not accept as prime minister anyone who has a criminal conviction.

Sergiu Miscoiu, a Romanian political science professor, told Reuters: “Dragnea has nominated a loyal person … it will be a government controlled by Dragnea.”

Mr Dragnea himself appeared to echo the sentiment, telling reporters: “The political responsibility stays with me first of all.”

Ms Shhaideh’s nomination was a historic one in a country where only 0.3 per cent of people are Muslim.

With President Iohannis being a Protestant of German heritage, it temporarily raised the prospect of Romania’s two leading politicians both coming from religious minorities in a country where 80 per cent of the population is Orthodox Christian.

The Independent

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