Romanian President Klaus Iohannis appointed Viorica Dancila, an obscure member of the European parliament who once claimed that Iran and Pakistan were EU members, as the country’s new prime minister on January 17. She replaces Mihai Tudose, who resigned on January 15. Mrs Dancila – the first woman to hold the role – must now put together a cabinet and face a parliamentary vote of confidence, likely to take place on January 29. Mrs Dancila is a member of the populist PSD, which together the centrist ALDE party commands a comfortable majority in parliament.
“I can only do what the constitution allows me to do,” said Mr Iohannis. “It is clear that the PSD still has a majority, so I have decided to give the PSD another chance. But now they have to perform. Romanians have great expectations, and I have great expectations. The PSD promised important things during its electoral campaign and must start to deliver.”
Mrs Dancila is Romania’s third prime minister since parliamentary elections were held in December 2016. Neither Mr Tudose nor his predecessor, Sorin Grindeanu, lasted more than six months. Both were forced out after coming into conflict with Liviu Dragnea, the PSD’s leader whose conviction for attempting to rig an election bars him from taking the PM’s job himself.
Opposition leaders have expressed disappointment at the appointment of Mrs Dancila, citing her complete lack of government experience, modest educational background, a failure to speak any foreign languages and – above all – her close relationship with Mr Dragnea. Both Mrs Dancila and Mr Dragnea are from Teleorman, Romania’s poorest county. Dan Barna, leader of the Save Romania Union, said that Mrs Dancila’s appointment was, given she lacks the competencies required of a prime minister, an “insult” to Romanians.
Mr Iohannis has also angered many of his own supporters, who had widely expected him to be more combative, appointing a prime minister from outside the PSD-ALDE coalition or attempting to force an early election.
One of Mrs Dancila’s first acts as prime minister is likely to be a renewed effort to soften anti-corruption laws, lessen the powers of anti-corruption prosecutors and remove the independence of the country’s magistrates. Mr Dragnea is currently under investigation for a number of alleged acts of corruption.