Romanian President Klaus Iohannis rejects PM candidate Sevil Shhaideh

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Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis has rejected a proposal by the PSD party to name the first female and first Muslim prime minister, sparking outcry in the country already reeling from years of political and economic woes.

Iohannis said on Tuesday that he could not endorse the proposal by the Social Democrats to introduce Sevil Shhaideh as prime minister, urging the party to name another candidate.

“I have properly analyzed the arguments for and against and I have decided not to accept this proposal,” Iohannis said in a televised statement, adding, “I call on the PSD coalition to make another proposal.”

The president gave no reasons for his rejection, although reports said the female politician’s alleged support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah could have been an issue.

Shhaideh is also married to a Syrian man. He is from Romania’s small and long-established Turkish minority, with many saying that her Muslim faith could not have been a problem for Iohannis.

Iohannis had been expected to name the new premier before Christmas, but he delayed the nomination, saying he needed more time for deliberation of “two proposals” for the post. The delay came after the PSD nominated Shhaideh following the party’s victory on December 11 in Romania’s general elections. The PSD now leads Romania’s new coalition government alongside the smaller Alliance of Liberals and Democrats.

Romania’s opposition had challenged Shhaideh’s nomination by saying she would be the effective mouthpiece of the PSD leader, Liviu Dragnea.

Dragnea withdrew his bid to become prime minister before Christmas as Romania’s law bars him from office over a two-year suspended sentence he has been given for electoral fraud. The PSD chairman has said, however, that the law could be tweaked, showing that he still hopes to become prime minister.

Romania is the second poorest country in the European Union.