Ro­ma­nia’s first Muslim PM re­jected

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Ro­ma­nia’s pres­i­dent sparked fresh po­lit­i­cal tur­moil yesterday af­ter block­ing a pro­posal by the left­ist party that won elec­tions this month to ap­point the EU coun­try’s first fe­male and first Muslim prime min­is­ter. Klaus Io­han­nis gave no rea­sons for his re­jec­tion of Sevil Sh­haideh, put for­ward by the Social Democrats (PSD), but there was spec­u­la­tion that it was due to her Syr­ian hus­band’s back­ground. “I have prop­erly an­a­lyzed the ar­gu­ments for and against and I have de­cided not to ac­cept this pro­posal,” the pres­i­dent told re­porters, call­ing on the PSD to “make an­other pro­posal”.

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

Non-profit in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism group the Rise Project said that he has sev­eral times ex­pressed his sup­port for Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar Al-As­sad and for Le­banese Shi­ite move­ment Hezbol­lah. 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 the As­sad regime. This might have made giv­ing Sh­haideh the nec­es­sary se­cu­rity clear­ances to be the NATO mem­ber’s prime min­is­ter prob­lem­atic. “I sup­pose that his re­jec­tion is linked to ques­tions of na­tional se­cu­rity and be­cause the United States would not have been very keen,” po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst An­drei Taranu told AFP.

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

The leader of the PSD, Liviu Drag­nea, had with­drawn his own bid to be­come prime min­is­ter be­cause of a con­vic­tion that bars him from of­fice. Sh­haideh’s per­sonal close­ness to Drag­nea - he was a wit­ness at her wed­ding - has led to ac­cu­sa­tions that he will re­main in charge be­hind the scenes.

Yesterday, af­ter her re­jec­tion, Drag­nea said the PSD was con­sid­er­ing its op­tions in­clud­ing mov­ing to sus­pend Io­han­nis or go­ing to the con­sti­tu­tional court. “In our opin­ion the pres­i­dent is de­ter­mined to set off a po­lit­i­cal cri­sis,” Drag­nea said. “If our con­clu­sion is that it is in the coun­try’s in­ter­est to sus­pend Mr Io­han­nis, I won’t hes­i­tate.” How­ever, Taranu said that any at­tempt by the PSD to re­move the head of state was prob­lem­atic be­cause Io­han­nis is en­ti­tled to re­quest a sec­ond pro­posal for premier.

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 EU in 2007. But dur­ing the cam­paign Drag­nea fo­cused in­stead on the econ­omy, vow­ing to boost salaries and pen­sions in the EU’s sec­ond-poor­est coun­try. — AFP

GUNPO, South Korea: En­gi­neers test a four-me­ter-tall hu­manoid manned ro­bot dubbed Method-2 in a lab of Hankook Mi­rae Tech­nol­ogy yesterday.

Sevil Sh­haideh

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