New Zealand Prime Minister John Key resigns after 8 years
WELLINGTON – The Associated PressNew Zealand’s popular Prime Minister John Key stunned the nation on Dec. 5 when he announced, in a breaking voice, he was resigning after eight years as leader.
Key had been widely expected to contest his fourth general election next year. But he said he wanted to ensure he did not make the mistake that some other world leaders have done, and instead wanted to leave while he was on top of his game.
Speaking in a shaking voice, Key said he had made personal sacrifices for the job and the role had taken a toll on his family.
Key said his National Party caucus would meet Dec. 12 to decide on a new party leader and prime minister, and that he expected to formally submit his resignation to the Governor-General that same day.
He said he would back his deputy Bill English to take over. English said he would likely decide in the next day or two if he would seek the role.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he had sent Key a short message: “Say it ain’t so, bro.”
“John Key is one of the most outstanding national leaders in the world today,” Turnbull told reporters. “He has done an extraordinary job for New Zealand. He is somebody that all of us, right around the world, leaders in countries large and small, draw inspiration from.”
New Zealand’s opposition leader Andrew Little said the decision had taken everybody by surprise.
“He is entitled to be recognized for what he has done for New Zealand,” Little said. “He’s been there through some pretty difficult times.”
Key was a successful currency trader before turning to politics. He was elected to the nation’s parliament in 2002 and enjoyed a quick rise, becoming leader of his center-right opposition party in 2006. He won his first general election and became prime minister in 2008.
He won subsequent elections in 2011 and 2014 and retained unusually high popularity ratings. His party was a clear favorite to win the most votes at next year’s election, at least until his announcement on Dec. 5.