Sevil Shhaideh
Sevil Shhaideh, 52, could be Romania's first prime minister to be both female and Muslim. Reuters

Romania is set to have a prime minister who is both a woman and a Muslim for the first time in the country's history.

Sevil Shhaideh, 52, from the Romania's Tatar minority, is a relative newcomer to politics, having served for the county's Social Democratic Party (SDP) for the last four years.

Despite not being leader of the SDP however, she has been nominated to be the prime minister in unusual circumstances, after the party secured 45% of the vote in the 11 December general election.

Together with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, the SDP holds a majority of seats in Parliament.

The leader of the winning party is formally requested to become prime minister by the president, but that was not possible as the SDP's leader, Liviu Dragnea, was convicted of electoral fraud in April. His two-year suspended prison sentence rules him out of holding public office.

As a result, Dragnea has nominated Shhaideh to take the reins, and has asked President Klaus Iohannis to approve the nomination. Parliament must also approve the nomination. Both are expected to do so.

However, despite Shhaideh's pioneering success, Dragnea suggested her power will only be symbolic.

"If appointed, she would be prime minister, but the political responsibility stays with me first of all," Dragnea said on Wednesday (21 December), report Associated Press.

The pair are considered close allies as Shhaideh was secretary of state in the Development Ministry, when Dragnea was its minister and then succeeded him when he stepped down in 2015.

Dragnea also attended Shhaideh's wedding to a Syrian businessman in the same year.

In a population with 80% Orthodox Christians and with fewer than 1% Muslims, Shhaideh's nomination could prove unpopular, but analysts suggested in reality, it will be largely uncontroversial.

"There will clearly be part of the electorate that won't like it," Paul Ivan, a senior policy analyst at the European Policy Center in Brussels and a former Romanian diplomat, told the New York Times.

"[But] generally, Romania's Muslim community, the Turks and Tatars, the Islam they practice is a very moderate one.

"They have lived more than 100 years in a non-Muslim country, they've been through a socialist regime. If you look at Shhaideh, her head isn't covered."

The president could designate Shhaideh as prime minister as early as this week.