Liviu Dragnea, the corrupt leader of the PSD, Romania’s largest political party, currently serving a suspended prison sentence for attempting to rig an election, today demonstrated that he might well be the most agile, Machiavellian politician in Europe.
It looked at one stage yesterday (when Florin Georgescu refused to be nominated as prime minister) that the PSD leader was floundering. With no clear idea of who he could nominate to take the PM’s role (the law prevents convicted criminals from taking the job, ruling out Dragnea himself) the wily Dragnea has pulled an ace out of his sleeve: Sevil Shhaideh.
Shhaideh is a third-tier PSD stalwart whose only real political experience was a few months as Minister for Regional Development in 2015. And yet while she has been nominated for the job in order to do Dragnea’s bidding (and she will be a loyal servant: Dragnea was godfather at her wedding), appearances are everything: in that regard, she ticks all the right boxes.
Shhaideh is the perfect red herring who will distract all attention from Dragnea’s real agenda (tearing down the justice system). Female, muslim, married to a Syrian and a member of an ethnic minority (Turkish). What better example of progressive values could the EU (or anyone else who may be interested) want? Romania can now boast a German president and a muslim prime minister. It’s almost the first part of a ‘…walk into a pub’ joke.
And yet Shhaideh’s appointment (should it be approved by Klaus Iohannis, and then parliament: in all likeliness it will be) is anything but a joke and certainly no victory for diversity. Neither is it a victory for women’s rights in Romania. We don’t see Shhaideh – a muslim who we assume views women as inferior to men, as her religion dictates – leading the call for a crackdown on domestic abuse anytime soon. (Speaking of which, this superb report by the Rise Project published yesterday reveals how more than €38 million in EU funding for victims of domestic abuse has been stolen or wasted).
If the PSD had campaigned during the election promising a foreign, female, muslim prime minister then we could perhaps call Shhaideh a victory for diversity. Alas, we must not forget that the PSD won this election promising the exact opposite. It ran a campaign of hatred against foreigners (hence the consternation and outright fuming of some of its more reactionary elements this morning).
The sad truth is that if Romania really was as enlightened and diverse as some will now naively claim, the PSD would have in fact lost the election, not won it.