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Romania could see 1st female Muslim prime minister

Associated Press logo Associated Press 21/12/2016 ALISON MUTLER, Associated Press
In this photo taken May 20, 2015, Sevil Shhaideh, 52, stands at the Romanian presidency before being sworn in as regional development minister in Bucharest, Romania. Liviu Dragnea, chairman of Romania's Social Democratic party, which won the parliamentary election, proposed Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016 that Sevil Shhaideh take the post of prime minister.(AP Photo/Octav Ganea) © The Associated Press In this photo taken May 20, 2015, Sevil Shhaideh, 52, stands at the Romanian presidency before being sworn in as regional development minister in Bucharest, Romania. Liviu Dragnea, chairman of Romania's Social Democratic party, which won the parliamentary election, proposed Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016 that Sevil Shhaideh take the post of prime minister.(AP Photo/Octav Ganea)

BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania could be headed for its first female prime minister, an economist who is a member of Romania's small Muslim community.

Liviu Dragnea, chairman of Romania's Social Democratic party, which won the Dec. 11 parliamentary election, proposed Wednesday that Sevil Shhaideh take the post of prime minister. The announcement was a surprise because her name is not widely known in Romania.

Shhaideh, 52, is a party member but did not run as a lawmaker 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.

President Klaus Iohannis is consulting with political leaders before nominating a prime minister, who Parliament needs to approve. If approved, she would also become the country's first Muslim prime minister.

Dragnea is banned from being premier because he has a conviction for election fraud.

On Wednesday, Dragnea called his April 2016 conviction "unjust" and said the law that stops him from being premier 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 Dec. 11 parliamentary election but did not secure a majority and will govern with a minority partner.

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