Women's rights advocate could become the first female PM of Romania

Social democrats may soon make history, if their candidate Viorica Dancila becomes PM. Though it would be a great opportunity for change, her candidacy doesn’t mean the country is any less conservative or that her party fosters gender equality.

Ana Maria Luca
Ana Maria Luca NewsMavens, Central & Eastern Europe
Women's rights advocate could become the first female PM of Romania - NewsMavens
Viorica Dancila

Why this story matters:

On Tuesday, Romania’s ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) nominated Viorica Dancila for the post of Prime Minister, in a move to replace Mihai Tudose who was dismissed the night before after weeks of tensions with party leadership.

Dancila is the second woman social democrats have nominated as PM, after Sevil Shhaideh, a Muslim, was rejected by President Klaus Iohannis in January 2017.

Dancila, member of the PSD since 1996 and an MEP since 2009, is currently the head of the Social Democrat Women’s organization. In 2017, she was nominated for the European Parliament’s award for defending women’s rights.

In the EP, she served as the shadow rapporteur on women's rights in academia and research, for the S&D group. She says she continuously drew attention to the discrimination of women in this area and called on the European Commission to take action. She is also the originator of a written declaration requesting the EC to support women in rural areas.

As a women’s rights advocate in Romania’s biggest and increasingly conservative party, Dancila bears a heavier burden than her male colleagues.

She will be the prime minister of a country where the first lady was criticized for wearing short skirts, where domestic violence and sexual harassment are rampant, and female politicians are sexually harassed and silenced by their fellow male colleagues during the plenary sessions in the parliament.

Yesterday, some social democrat MPs claimed that they hope to make history by appointing the first female PM of Romania. Yet, that doesn’t mean the country is any less conservative or that the party itself fosters gender equality.

In 2017, several social democrats proved that they don’t have much respect for their fellow female MPs.

In May, during a debate in the parliament, MP Nicolae Bacalbasa insulted liberal opposition leader, Raluca Turcan, mispronouncing her name and then making obscene gestures. The party suspended him for 6 months.

However, it did not serve as a cautionary tale for his high profile colleagues. At the end of November, Mihai Tudose’s government survived an impeachment attempt of the united opposition. The MP who announced it was a woman -- Ramona Dinu, a Save Romania Union senator.

In response, the PM told the liberal opposition that apparently they did not support the impeachment motion since they let a new female colleague read it.

December provided more blatant examples of gender inequality in the parliament. During a debate on the controversial justice reform bill, which inspired tens of thousands of Romanians to protest in the streets, the head of the Equality of Chances Commission, Save Romania Union MP, Cosette Chichirau, accused Social Democratic MP, Serban Nicolae, of corruption. She also claimed that he was working as a chauffeur and that she had pictures to prove it.

“And I have pictures of you having anal sex,” he replied.

She reported him and, after heavy criticism from the media and civil society, received an apology.

Romanian female politicians, regardless of their qualifications, are generally objectified and judged by their looks, elegance and style. Their voices are thus silenced.

Sadly, Viorica Dancila was chosen not because she is some beacon for women’s rights but because she has connections in Brussels and because it benefits the party's image to have a female PM. Also, frankly, the social democrats don't have a better male candidate.

Her power will be as limited as her two predecessors', Mihai Tudose and Sorin Grindeanu, and if her ideas conflict with the party leadership's strategy, she too will have to go.  

women's issues, politics

Details from the story:

  • On Tuesday, Romania’s ruling Social Democratic Party nominated a woman for the post of PM to replace Mihai Tudose, who was dismissed after a conflict with the party leadership.
  • MEP Viorica Dancila presents herself as one of the most active MEPs in the field of women’s rights and was nominated for the European Parliament award for her work in 2017.  
  • Several social democratic MPs faced scrutiny in 2017 for their sexist behaviour in the parliament. 
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