Romanian president rejects a Muslim woman as PM

27th Jan 2017
Romanian president rejects a Muslim woman as PM

President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis, rejected the Social Democrats proposal of Sevil Shhaideh as the country’s new PM (Photo: Creative Commons)

Amira Al-Hooti

On December 27, President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis, rejected the Social Democrats (PSD) proposed candidate, Sevil Shhaideh, as country’s new Prime Minister.  She was nominated only a week before on December 21, by Romania’s leading political party.

Had she not been denied by Iohannis, she could have potentially created history as Romania’s first ever Muslim and female Prime Minister, though she would have still needed to gain the approval of Parliament. She would have also become the first Muslim PM in the Western world.

The President did not give any reason for rejecting Shhaideh as PM. He did, however, state that he “carefully weighed the pros and cons” of the nomination and turned down Shhaideh making him the first Romanian president to refuse permission of a prime ministerial proposition. Iohannis has called on the PSD and ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe), a coalition united after the elections that took place on December 11 (when PSD won 45% of the votes), to recommend another candidate, which he is lawfully authorised to do because of the dismissal of the nominee.

Although the President has not elaborated on his decision, there have been many speculations as to his reasoning behind it. Shhaideh was a Minister of Regional Development for approximately six months. It is believed that Iohannis decision may have had something to do with her lack of political experience combined with Akram Shhaideh, her Syrian husband’s support of Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad.

Shhaideh has been a PSD member since July 2015. She graduated from the Academy of Economic Sciences, Faculty of Economic Planning and Cybernetics, in 1987. During the period May-November 2015, she served as minister of regional development in Victor Ponta cabinet. She is currently a state secretary at the same ministry, a post she occupied from 2012 to May 2015 and to which she returned in November 2015. Also, she has been president of the National Association of Public Administration (ANIAP) since 2000, according to data from her CV posted online.

Shhaideh’s nomination was popular amongst some of the public. Some individuals took to twitter to show their support of the 52-year-old following the nomination, approving the diversity that she could be representing in the future in a prestigious political position as a Muslim woman of the Tatar minority.

@AlexStanusGhib tweeted: “#SevilShhaideh , first Romanian woman AND Muslim prime minister… our parliament is more open-minded and progressive than previously thought”.

Although she wasn’t elected to be Romania’s next PM, she shed some light on the potentiality for a Muslim PM in the future as it might have seemed close to impossible for a Muslim woman to be considered for the role up until now.

There are less than 1% Muslims and over 80% Orthodox Christians in Romania. Unlike other European countries with higher populations of Muslims, not a single one has ever had a Muslim PM and so to many, the possibility of a Romanian Muslim PM came as a huge surprise.

The leader of PSD Party, Liviu Dragnea, would have been selected to be the PM had he not been involved in electoral manipulation in the 2012 national referendum, receiving a two-year suspended sentence.

“An unjust conviction and a deeply unconstitutional law have prevented me, for the time being, from claiming this office myself,” said Dragnea. For this reason, Dragnea had selected Shhaideh to be the candidate for the Social Democrats.

According to PSD’s official website, Dragnea stated at Cotroceni Palace, “PSD won the election and according to custom (…) I had a legitimate right to ask for me as Prime Minister in the Government of Romania” after a meeting with the President. However, he said that he had worked with Shhaideh “for years” and so suggested her to be the right candidate for the PM’s post.

According to The New York Times, Sergiu Miscoiu, Professor of Political Science, believed that the Shhaideh was nominated for strategic reasons and as a response to allegations made against the party. “PSD (Social Democrats) are saying implicitly with this nomination: ‘you accused us of being nationalist and orthodoxist – look what we do, don’t you like it?’ ”.

Dragnea is showing no signs of retreating and persistently refuses to propose another person to be considered for the role. He said that he, the centre-left party and ALDE coalition will try to impeach the Romanian President. According to hotnews.ro, Augustin Zegrean, an ex-chairman of the Constitutional Court said, “That would be a reason for suspending the president? He does his job. The Constitution allows him to designate or not the person proposed”.

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