Romanian president backs having 1st female prime minister

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romania's president on Wednesday proposed that a European member of Parliament be country's the next prime minister and potentially its first female leader.

President Klaus Iohannis named Viorica Dancila, a member of the ruling Social Democratic Party and an ally of party chairman Liviu Dragnea. The decision must be approved by Parliament for her to get the job.

The move came after the ruling party forced the resignation of their prime minister on Monday less than seven months after he took office. Dragnea, the most powerful politician in Romania, can't be prime minister due to a conviction for vote-rigging.

Dancila, 54, supports laws being considered by Parliament that critics say will make it harder to prosecute high-level corruption.

On Wednesday she said it was important "to put into practice the governing program and ... to prepare for the presidency of the European Union," which Romania takes over on Jan. 1, 2019.

Iohannis said he was giving the Social Democrats, who have a parliamentary majority with a junior partner, another chance after "two failed governments." He was referring to the resignation of Mihai Tudose on Monday and a previous prime minister, Sorin Grindeanu, who was ousted in June 2017.

Romania's opposition Liberal Party called for an early election instead, saying the Social Democrats have failed to deliver a stable government.

Iohannis said Romanians had great expectations of their future government.

"The Social Democrats have promised salaries, pensions, schools ... hospitals, infrastructure ... but too little has been achieved," he said.

After the Social Democrats came to power in December 2016, they moved to pass laws that have diluted efforts to crack down on corruption. That prompted weeks of massive protests, the largest since communism ended in 1989.

The government backed off, but late last year began to debate legislation in Parliament that would restructure Romania's justice system, a move that has been criticized by the U.S. and the European Union.

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