Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Romania set for first woman and first Muslim as Prime Minister

Sevil Shhaideh briefly oversaw the department of regional development

Matt Broomfield
Thursday 22 December 2016 16:18 GMT
Sevil Shhaideh is sworn in for the position of minister for regional administration and public administration, in Bucharest, Romania, May 20, 2015.
Sevil Shhaideh is sworn in for the position of minister for regional administration and public administration, in Bucharest, Romania, May 20, 2015. (Inquam Photos)

Romania is set to appoint a Muslim and a woman as prime minister for the first time in its history. with the nomination of Sevil Shhaideh, a little-known member of the Tartar minority.

The centre-left Social Democratic Party (PSD) led by Liviu Dragnea took 45 per cent of the vote on election day in 11 December, double any other party's share.

It is now forming a new government in coalition with a smaller liberal partner. But Mr Dragnea, who as party chief would normally be appointed to become Prime Minister, was found guilty of electoral fraud and given two years' suspended sentence in April.

Though Mr Dragnea, 54, was not banned from politics and remains hugely popular among his party's base, incumbent President Klaus Iohannis was elected on an anti-corruption platform and has barred any candidate with a criminal record from becoming PM.

So his party chose Ms Shhaideh, who was a minor minister for just six months in a previous government.

The 52-year-old technocrat briefly oversaw the department of regional development, and has long been an ally of Mr Dragnea.

"Dragnea has nominated a loyal person," Romanian political science professor Sergiu Miscoiu told Reuters. "It will be a government controlled by Dragnea."

And Mr Dragnea made no bones about the nature of the appointment, telling reporters: "the political responsibility stays with me first of all."

Nonetheless, the move is a historic one. Only 0.3 per cent of Romanians are Muslims. Ms Shhaideh is not only a member of the tiny Sunni population which has persevered for seven centuries on the coast of the Black Sea, but is married to a Syrian, and she and her husband own properties in the war-torn country.

Public will in Romania is strongly against mandatory EU quotas of refugees fleeing the Syrian war, particularly if they are enforced without Romania itself being allowed into the Schengen free-movement area. And this is unlikely to change under Ms Shhaideh.

But to crown his ally as head of the Romanian government, Mr Dragnea needs the approval of parliament and President Iohannis, and this is far from a done deal.

"I will not come up with another proposal," Mr Dragnea told press outside Bucharest's Cotroceni Palace. "If it is turned down, we'll see each other elsewhere."

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in