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22nd Sep 2019

Romanian president rejects PM designate

  • Iohannis: 'I have properly analysed the arguments for and against and I have decided not to accept this proposal' (Photo: Klaus Iohannis)

Romania's social democrat party (PSD) and liberals have accused president Klaus Iohannis of causing a political crisis after he vetoed their candidate for prime minister of the country.

The two parties could use their majority in Romania's parliament to try and suspend Iohannis, whom they accuse of breaching of Romania's constitution, which says the president has to be neutral.

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Iohannis, formerly a member of the conservative-liberal National Liberal Party, on Tuesday rejected the nomination of Sevil Shhaideh, a member of Romania's Tatar minority, who would have been the first female Muslim to head an EU country.

Shhaideh, 52, served as minister of regional development for six months before the previous PSD-led government resigned in 2015 in the wake of a nightclub fire that killed 64 people.

She's a little-known figure, but close to social democratic party leader Liviu Dragnea who was convicted of electoral fraud in April.

He was a witness at her 2011 wedding to a Syrian businessman, who is said to be supportive of Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Dragnea has refrained from running himself, as Iohannis had previously ruled out swearing in anyone with a criminal record.

Although some opposition figures said Romania, a Nato member, could not have a PM whose husband was loyal to Assad, the president would not elaborate on his reasons for rejecting Shhaideh.

"I have properly analysed the arguments for and against and I have decided not to accept this proposal," Iohannis said in a televised statement.

He called on the social democrats to choose another candidate, but they refused.

"Just like the entire country we watched with stupefaction the president's announcement … We looked into the matter, trying to find the honest or constitutional reasons that may have stood behind this decision. We weren't able to find any constitutional grounds," Dragnea said.

"In our opinion, this man wants to trigger a political crisis in Romania," he added.

PSD won 45 percent of the ballot in Romania's parliamentary elections on 11 December.

Romanian social democrats set for return to power

The party, which was forced out only a year ago amid widespread claims of corruption, emerged as the winner in Sunday's general election after campaigning to reduce taxes and increase social spending.

Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs

European People's Party group leader Manfred Weber defended Ursula von der Leyen's decision to rename a commission portfolio, partly dealing with migration, "protecting the European way of life". He said it means rescuing people in the Mediterranean.

Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing

Hungary was quizzed by EU ministers over its domestic crackdown on media, judges, academia and NGOs. Hungary's minister responded by saying the country had defended "the European way of life" for centuries, and it should be respected.

EU divided on how to protect rule of law

Poland and Hungary have argued that rule of law is purely a domestic matter and the EU should respect legal traditions, but Dutch foreign minister warned backsliding was a worry for all.

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