The parliament of Romania named a new prime minister on Wednesday, Sorin Grindeanu of the left-leaning Social Democratic Party, which prevailed in the Dec. 11 elections. Romania has long been unique in some of its political trends, but this move pointed to the difficulty of making sense of the general direction of European elections, in advance of this year’s scheduled contests in France, Germany and the Netherlands. Romania, a nation of 19 million, joined the NATO military alliance in 2004 and the European Union in 2007.
The 24-day delay to name a new government was unusual; Romania’s authorities generally don’t mess around in making even radical changes. When its communist government came down, President Nicolae Ceaucescu and his wife, Elena, in power for 24 years, were put on trial Christmas Day 1989, found guilty in a short trial and promptly shot.
The long interim period this time was put down to confusion in the choice of a new prime minister. The PSD party’s leader, Liviu Dragnea, was ruled out because of a previous conviction for electoral fraud. The first apparent choice for prime minister was Sevil Shhaideh, a member of Romania’s ethnic Turkish minority, who would have been Romania’s first woman and first Muslim prime minister. She was ultimately rejected for the role by Romania’s president, Klaus Iohannis, apparently because of her Syrian-born husband’s ties to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The new prime minister, Mr. Grindeanu, has set his government a difficult agenda. He has pledged to raise Romania’s minimum wage, create new infrastructure and discourage emigration. He will also have to address the persistent problem of graft, a subject of EU and other investors’ and donors’ concern for many years.
The United States values Romania as a NATO partner that borders former Soviet states. Under previous governments, it has shown itself willing to serve as the host for U.S. weapons systems, a policy position the new governments in Bucharest and in Washington may call into question.
Correction (posted Jan. 6): This has been updated to correct the reference to Romania’s borders.