Sorin Grindeanu named new prime minister

Ex-Romanian minister considered a “better solution” than Muslim candidate Sevil Shhaideh, who was rejected by president.

Sorin Grindeanu gestures while answering a question
Sorin Grindeanu now faces a confidence vote in parliament on his programme and cabinet nominees [Reuters]

Romania’s president has named social-democrat Sorin Grindeanu as the nation’s new prime minister, after turning down an economist who could have become the country’s first female Muslim premier.

The centre-right president Klaus Iohannis signed the official decree naming Grindeanu, a 43-year-old former communications minister, as the new prime minister.

Grindeanu is a member of the Social Democratic Party that won December 11 elections, and chairman of the Timis county council. He now faces a confidence vote in parliament on his programme and cabinet nominees.

The nomination sought to put an end to a political crisis sparked when Iohannis rejected Sevil Shhaideh, who would have been the country’s first female and first Muslim government leader.

READ MORE: President rejects Muslim PM candidate Sevil Shhaideh

The president offered no reasons for his rejection of Shhaideh, initially put forward by the Social Democrats (PSD), but there was speculation that it was due to her Syrian husband’s background.

Sources close to the president had indicated on Thursday that Grindeanu was considered a “better solution”.

He is seen in Romania as a “disciplined soldier” within the PSD ranks and said himself in a recent interview that he had joined the party very young as an outlet for his leftist convictions.

Rejected Muslim PM candidate

The PSD had proposed the previously little-known Shhaideh after its thumping poll victory on December 11 when it won 45 percent of the vote, enough to form a majority coalition with its partners the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats.

Shhaideh, 52, who has only five months ministerial experience, is from Romania’s small and long-established Turkish minority, but her Muslim faith is not thought to have been the problem.

Instead the focus was probably on her husband, 54, who worked in the Syrian agriculture ministry for 20 years before emigrating to Romania in 2011 and marrying Shhaideh in the same year, according to the PSD.

READ MORE: Romania polls – Centre-left PSD stages sweeping comeback

Website HotNews cited unnamed sources as saying that the security services had “strongly cautioned” against Shhaideh’s nomination because of the closeness of her husband and his two brothers to President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

The PSD’s election triumph came barely a year since anger over a deadly nightclub fire that killed 64 people forced it from office.

The inferno was blamed on corruption, something Brussels has long complained about since Romania joined the European Union in 2007.

Source: News Agencies