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January 5, 2017

BUCHAREST, ROMANIA — Romania’s Parliament approved a new left-leaning coalition government on Wednesday, ending weeks of uncertainty about who would lead a country that has been a staunch member of the European Union and NATO.

Sorin Grindeanu, 43, a former minister of communications and a compromise candidate, was named prime minister. He had earlier replaced his Social Democratic Party’s first pick, Sevil Shhaideh, a member of the country’s Tatar minority who would have become the country’s first female and first Muslim prime minister.

The Social Democrats were elected to power in a national election on Dec. 11 on the promise of increasing government spending for health care, salaries and pensions. On Wednesday, Mr. Grindeanu said his government would raise the minimum wage, and improve access to free prescription drugs. He also promised to create better-paying jobs in the country so that Romanians would not seek work abroad.

Romania’s president, Klaus Iohannis, swore in the new cabinet and urged its members to strengthen the country’s judiciary and shore up its relations with the European Union and NATO.

“You have to deliver what you promised in the electoral campaign,” he told the cabinet members. “I expect that you keep clear, visible and declared the Euro-Atlantic orientation of Romania… You swore that you would do everything you can for a mature democracy in Romania. We cannot imagine in Europe a democracy without an independent justice and the rule of law.”

The pick for prime minister was thrown into confusion last week when Ms. Shhaideh was rejected for the post by Mr. Iohannis apparently because of her Syrian-born husband’s support for the regime of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. Ms. Shhaideh was instead named deputy prime minister and minister of regional development.

The natural pick for the job, the party’s leader, Liviu Dragnea, was barred from becoming prime minister after a 2015 conviction for electoral fraud.

While Mr. Dragnea will not hold any official role in the new cabinet, analysts expect that he will wield influence from behind the scenes.

“The real prime minister is Liviu Dragnea. This is the personal cabinet of Dragnea,” said Cristian Pirvulescu, dean of the political science department at the National School of Political Studies and Public Administration in Bucharest.

Prof. Pirvulescu said few of the new ministers were politically experienced. “It is not a political government but a party government. This is a real problem for the country,” he added.

Those member of the cabinet who have more political experience also have more political baggage.

Some are concerned that the Social Democrats will rein in the country’s successful anti-corruption efforts. The appointment of Florin Iordache as justice minister did little to allay those fears. Mr. Iordache was involved in a 2013 attempt to bolster immunity for politicians.

Mr. Grindeanu, the new prime minister, said that the fight against corruption should be firm, “but equally firm should be the defense of fundamental human rights.”

The pick for foreign minister, Teodor Melescanu, 75, a career diplomat, however, was praised by some analysts. “It is good that we have an experienced foreign affairs minister, since Romania is going to have the E.U. presidency [in 2019],” said Radu Magdin, director of Smartlink Communications, a political consulting group.

Mr. Magdin believes that the new government will be more assertive internationally, “but not in an aggressive way.” In order to deliver on economic targets, he said, the government will need to negotiate effectively with other European Union member states over its agreed budget deficit ceiling.

Mr. Magdin added that the government’s handling of the power dynamics between Mr. Dragnea and Mr. Grindeanu in the coming period could be key. “It won’t be okay if Dragnea steps in and puts words in Grindeanu’s mouth. It is important for our foreign partners to see that he is a genuine prime minister.”

www.nytimes.com/2017/01/04/world/europe/romania-chooses-left-leaning-government.html