Romania approves first female prime minister amid protests

Romania approves first female prime minister amid protests
Romanian Prime Minister designate Viorica Dancila waves before a joint parliament session that will vote on her and her cabinet's nomination. Pic: AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda

Romania's parliament has confirmed Viorica Dancila as its first female prime minister and the country's third head of government in a year.

Ms Dancila won by 282 votes to 136, far more than the 233 votes she needed to lead Romania's current left-wing government, which the European Union has criticised over legislation that critics say will make it hard to prosecute high-level corruption.

The 54-year-old has voiced her support for the proposals, which have prompted public protests.

The legislation would ban the use of audio and video recordings in prosecutions. Other aspects include holding judges personally responsible for erroneous rulings, and making it possible to seek financial damages from them.

The previous two prime ministers were ousted because they were perceived as not toeing the ruling Social Democrat party line, and in particular not giving their full support to the overhaul of the justice system.

Ms Dancila, who will head a cabinet of 27 ministers, will likely act in the role of an administrator, with government policy decided by powerful Social Democrat chairman Liviu Dragnea, who cannot be prime minister because of a conviction for vote-rigging.

A court froze Mr Dragnea's assets in November over a charge of embezzling EU funds. He denies any wrongdoing.

Ms Dancila is a member of the European Parliament and was a relative unknown in domestic politics until this month. Speaking ahead of the parliament vote, she promised to raise wages, reduce bureaucracy and build hundreds of miles of new motorways and railway lines by 2020.

She was booed by a small group of protesters as she arrived at parliament on Monday, but party members handed her a bouquet of red roses and greeted her with applause as she walked through the palace built by late Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu, which now houses Parliament.

The new PM told MPs: "The goal of my mandate is for Romania in 2020 to be in the top half of the EU's strongest economies so that young people no longer leave from Romania, and those that have left want to return."

Mihai Tudose resigned as prime minister earlier this month after the party withdrew its support for him. He replaced Sorin Grindeanu, who was forced out of office in a vote of no confidence brought by his own party in June.

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