Romania could have its first female prime minister, an economist who is a member of the country's small Muslim community.

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said on Thursday he would appoint a prime minister designate after Sunday as he needed time to assess a proposal made by the Social Democrat Party (PSD), the winners of a December 11 parliamentary election.

Liviu Dragnea, chairman of the PSD, proposed that Sevil Shhaideh take the post of prime minister. The announcement was a surprise because her name is not widely known in Romania.

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Shhaideh, 52, is a party member but did not run as a member of parliament in the election. She was the minister for regional development for six months in 2015, and is currently an official in the regional development ministry.

If approved by parliament, she will also become the country's first Muslim prime minister.

Dragnea is banned from taking the role because he has a conviction for election fraud.

'Hard-working and loyal'

On Wednesday, Dragnea called his April 2016 conviction "unjust" and said the law that stops him from being prime minister was "profoundly unconstitutional". The new parliament could vote to change the 2001 law that bans anyone with a conviction of holding a ministerial post.

Later Wednesday, Dragnea was elected speaker of parliament's Chamber of Deputies while the former Senate speaker, Calin Popescu Tariceanu, was re-elected.

Dragnea, who continues as head of the party, is expected to have significant influence over a government headed by Shhaideh.

"If appointed, she would be prime minister, but the political responsibility stays with me first of all," Dragnea said, praising Shhaideh for her knowledge of public administration and for being hard-working and loyal.

The left-leaning Social Democrats easily won the December 11 parliamentary election, but did not secure a majority and will govern with a minority partner.

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Source: News agencies