Europe is about to get its first Muslim prime minister, and it is a woman.
Romania’s Social Democrats, backed by its liberal coalition government partners, on Wednesday nominated Sevil Shhaideh for the role.
Shhaideh, a little-known former regional development minister, is a Muslim from Romania’s ethnic Tartar minority.
She is married to a Syrian Alawite with property in the country, and was born in 1964.
In 1987 she graduated from the Economic Planning and Cybernetics Faculty of the Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies. She then attended several foreign training courses, several in the USA, before specialising in information systems management.
Her first political appointment was in May 2012, when she was named Secretary of State with the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Administration before becoming the office’s Minister in 2015, a position she held until this November.
Her nomination will have to be approved by the country’s parliament and by President Klaus Iohannis.
If approved, she will become the country’s first Muslim PM in a country that is predominately Orthodox Christian.
President Iohannis is an ethnic German. Less than one percent. of Romania is Muslim.
Liviu Dragnea, the chairman of the Social Democrats is banned from holding the prime ministership after being convicted in April 2016 of election fraud, attempting to inflate voting numbers in a bid to impeach former President Traian Basescu in 2012.
Dragnea received a two-year suspended prison sentence. President Iohannis said he would not nominate a prime minister who is under investigation for corruption or who has been convicted of a crime.
On Wednesday, Dragnea was elected as the speaker of the parliament’s Chamber of Deputies, and is expected to have significant influence over Romania’s next government.
Shhaideh, 52, has worked with and has known Dragnea for 15 years. He was reportedly a witness at Shhaideh’s 2011 marriage.
When Prime Minister Victor Ponta in 2015 resigned after thousands protested the deaths of dozens of people in a Bucharest nightclub fire, Shhaideh took over from Dragnea in his them role as regional development minister.
Nicușor Dan, the head of Save Romania Union, an anti-corruption party founded in late 2015 and which ran a campaign to fight corruption, criticised Shhaideh’s nomination and likely appointment.
Speaking to Digi 24 in Romania, Dan said Shhaideh lacked experience for the job.
“Liviu Dragnea announced a person without the clout required for the position of prime minister,” Dan said. “The only criterion he used was that of a person who is loyal to him.”
Dacian Ciolos, an independent, is the sitting Prime Minister of Romania. He is not expected to be re-nominated following the country’s parliamentary election and subsequent cabinet reshuffle.
Romania’s left-leaning Social Democrats on Dec. 12 overwhelmingly won parliamentary elections winning 46% of the vote.
Although they far distanced themselves from the National Liberals, their centre-right rivals, the Social Democrats failed to win an outright majority in parliament.