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Romania's ruling Social Democrats propose MEP Dancila as new premier

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania’s ruling Social Democrat party (PSD) chose to nominate European MP Viorica Dancila as the new prime minister in a unanimous vote on Tuesday after Mihai Tudose stepped down following a row with the party leadership.

Dancila, 54, is a close ally of the powerful PSD leader Liviu Dragnea. Tudose resigned on Monday after the PSD withdrew its backing for him, making him the second premier to be ousted in seven months as Romanian politics are dogged by infighting and corruption scandals.

“We voted unanimously for her. This candidacy we propose cannot be refused by the president, we wanted a person with European exposure,” a PSD leader told Reuters by telephone on condition of anonymity.

Earlier on Tuesday, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis appointed PSD member Defence Minister Mihai Fifor as interim prime minister, prompting speculation from analysts that Fifor would likely be Iohannis’ preferred replacement for Tudose.

The PSD leadership will now formally propose their nomination of Dancila to Iohannis tomorrow. If Iohannis approves, she will have to undergo a vote of confidence in parliament. Only if that is successful will she be appointed prime minister.

“There is now obviously a need for a government to shorten this period of uncertainty,” Iohannis said. “I want us to have a swift procedure that will lead to a new government because ... I want to avoid as much as possible potential negative economic consequences.”

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Dancila is a vice-chair of the European parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development. Defence Minister Fifor, 47, has contributed to the acquisition of multi-billion military equipment and hardware to modernise Romania’s army, including Patriot missiles from the United States.

“Given the president’s statements ... he may accept this nomination. But he may want to push further for Fifor case in which I gave her a 50-50 chance to be appointed,” said independent political analyst Cristian Patrasconiu.

An oil and gas drilling engineer, Dancila was born in the same county as Dragnea and served on the Teleorman County Council when Dragnea chaired that body.

Romania posted the European Union’s highest economic growth rate in the third quarter at 8.8 percent year-on-year, but it also had the largest rate of household deprivation, Eurostat data showed, with one in two Romanians struggling to keep their home warm or pay their bills on time.

Addisional reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky