Murky Romanian Politics: Dragnea’s Political Games

Andrei Popoviciu is a Romanian, International Relations student at King’s College London. He is the Social Media Editor of International Relations Today.


Liviu Dragnea, head PSD

On the 11th of December, the Romanian people had their say in the parliamentary elections. The Social Democrat Party (PSD) won the elections with a staggering 45% which gave it majority in parliament and the chance to propose a new Prime Minister. Though a party with perspectives of the left, PSD campaigned on a conservative, nationalistic, and pro-Christian Orthodox platform. Even though the party is extremely popular throughout the Romanian electorate, it has a bad reputation because of the people who were a part of it. The party focuses on manipulation, propaganda and dispersing fake news through media outlets which are known to be politically inclined towards the Social Democrats or even owned by them. Political promises and electoral bribe are common practices which characterise the way PSD operates. What is alarming is the fact that a large number of PSD members have been found guilty of corruption, financial crime or money laundering all while occupying high ranked positions in the state administration.

With PSD winning the elections, Liviu Dragnea, the head of the party was supposed to take the lead of the government and become Prime Minister. However, since he was found guilty of electoral fraud and was given 2 years of suspended sentence, he could not be nominated for the position according to the constitution. This created distress in the media as the party’s wish to propose a convicted felon for one of the most important political positions in Romania was frowned upon even by members of the PSD. Nevertheless, Dragnea was not even banned from politics and is still hugely popular within the PSD-core. Way back, he was a public official in Teleorman county, the county with the highest unemployment rate in Romania, and is called the “Teleorman Baron” due to his high profile and the numerous accusations of corruption he got while serving in the county administration.

Furthermore, Romania has a small intake of EU funds, not because they’re not available, but because PSD will not approve any projects unless those favoured by them get their pockets filled. Due to anti-corruption work by the National Anticorruption Directorate, this has become increasingly difficult. Hopefully, we’ll have no more massive IT projects that swallowed huge amount of EU money only to be useless and no more fake pharma companies that not only sucked dry the national health system, but put countless of patients in danger, just for corrupted officials to launder more money. This has been a direct result of corrupt high ranked officials using European funds to fund money laundering projects and initiatives.


Liviu Dragnea and Sevil Shhaideh shaking hands at the Ministry of Development

Thus, in light of Dragnea’s predicament, he proposed Sevil Shhaideh as a candidate for the PM position. But who is Sevil Shhaideh? Part of PSD, she worked as a minister in the Ponta government, together with Dragnea, whom she’s known for 15 years. They worked in the Ministry of Regional Development where they developed a close friendship. Part of the fuss about her nomination was regarding the fact that Mrs Shhaideh is part of the Tatar minority in Romania. A bit ironic as the PSD electorate seemed to dismiss the option of a Tatar woman running the government, not because her political colour or entanglements with corrupted and convicted individuals, but because her religion and gender. She is close to another PSD strongman, Nicusor Constantinescu, a corrupted public official of Constanta county who is now serving a 15-year sentence for corruption. Nicusor Constantinescu and Liviu Dragnea were both witnesses at Shhaideh’s marriage in 2011 to Akram Shhaideh, an agricultural businessman and specialist from Syria.

Her marriage to the Syrian businessman made the investigative journalists from Rise Project curious about his background. Her husband worked as counsellor for agriculture in the Romanian government and is highly educated in the agricultural domain. Nonetheless, the journalists at Rise found out that Akram Shhaideh, a supporter of Bashar Al-Assad, has been involved in the Syrian crisis. On his personal Facebook page he shared a series of messages and supportive statements for the Assad regime and praised Hezbollah, calling it” a fighter in a holy war”. In 2012, he said that the Syrian civil war is propaganda and that nothing is in fact happening there as Bashar Al-Assad has everything under control. What is scary is that everything was shared on his personal social media accounts and made public by Shhaideh himself. The thought of what he might secretly be involved in is daunting to say the least. However, from everything Rise Project gathered you can contour an image of the type of person Mrs Shhaideh is married to.

Furthermore, besides the fact that Mrs Shhaideh is believed to be a puppet manipulated by Dragnea, it was argued that her only role would be to keep Dragnea’s seat warm until they can alter the constitution and make Dragnea PM. A proxy PM which could have played an important piece in Liviu Dragnea’s lustful political game for the leadership position.

Sergiu Miscoiu, a Romanian political science professor, told Reuters: “Dragnea has nominated a loyal person … it will be a government controlled by Dragnea.”

Ironically, Romania would have contributed to the UN Sustainable Development goals as the first country in Europe to have a Muslim woman as PM. An excellent card played by Dragnea to display faux progressiveness in his party and empowerment of women in Romania when it was just a piece of a complex political game played in his quest for power. It would have been a genius move if Romania was more liberal and open minded, but most of the PSD electorate now regrets voting for PSD in this election because of the unusual nomination of a Muslim woman as PM. This is mainly due to lack of education and the nationalistic drives most of the PSD electorate has been found to have.


Liviu Dragnea and Sorin Grindeanu the second PM proposal

Consequently, Klaus Iohannis rejected the proposal as he did not see Sevil Shhaideh fit to be PM. As per usual, Dragnea was not content at all and declared that Iohannis’ decision to turn down the proposal can spark a “political crisis”. What is clear is that they will not go down quietly. Hence, Dragnea is now trying to suspend Iohannis following his decision not to appoint Sevil Shhaideh as PM. Nonetheless, PSD is in line with another proposal – Sorin Grindeanu – former Minister of Communications in the former government.

At the moment, he is the president of the County Council in Timisoara county and seems to be more fit and have more experience than Sevil Shhaideh. Certain sources say that he was at the top of the list for the PM proposal before Mrs Shhaideh, but he declined the offer. However, the current political situation might have forced his hand into acceptance. Another argument is that Iohannis had a political strategy to turn down the first proposal so that PSD will have to come up with a better and safer option for the position. With the future of Romanian politics so far bleak, we will now have to wait and see if Klaus Iohannis will accept the second proposal. Either way, Grindeanu is still seen as one of Dragnea’s string-puppets.


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