Romania delays nomination of first female Muslim leader

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romania's president said Thursday he needs more time to nominate a new prime minister, delaying the confirmation in office of the country's first female Muslim premier amid signs of unease.

The Social Democrats, winners of the Dec. 11 elections, on Wednesday proposed economist Sevil Shhaideh, a little-known former minister, who has not spoken or appeared publicly since she was proposed.

President Klaus Iohannis had been expected to give official support to that nomination Thursday. Lawmakers then must approve the nomination.

But Iohannis announced he will delay any announcement until after Christmas. He did not explain why.

The 52-year-old Shhaideh served as Romania's regional development minister last year. Critics of her surprise nomination argue that Shhaideh lacks sufficient political experience and would become the effective mouthpiece of Social Democrat chairman Liviu Dragnea.

She is married to Akram Shhaideh, a Syrian, who obtained Romanian citizenship in 2015.

The Rise Project, a member of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, reported Thursday that Shhaideh's husband made postings in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad on his Arabic-language Facebook page.

Dragnea responded by calling on Romania's intelligence services to state whether Shhaideh's husband posed a security problem. He said he doubted this, otherwise Shhaideh's husband would not have received Romanian citizenship

The Romanian Orthodox Bishop of Cluj, Andrei Andreicut, said he personally wanted a "Romanian and orthodox prime minister." More than 85 percent of Romanians belong to the influential church.

The Social Democrats lead Romania's new coalition government alongside the smaller Alliance of Liberals and Democrats.