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Two early bids to replace Key as New Zealand PM

Update: December, 06/2016 - 11:55
New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Bill English speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament in Wellington on December 5, 2016. Prime Minister of New Zealand John Key announced his resignation that will take effect from December 12. English has been put forward by Key as his replacement. - AFP/VNA Photo
Viet Nam News

WELLINTON — New Zealand will have at least a two-way race to decide their next prime minister following the bombshell resignation of the popular John Key.

Current deputy Bill English and Health Minister Jonathan Coleman both confirmed on Tuesday, following a government caucus meeting, that they would contest the leadership.

A third MP, Police Minister Judith Collins, said she was still considering her options.

When three-term leader Key announced on Monday he was stepping down to spend more time with his family, he endorsed English as his successor.

The National Party caucus is expected to vote on its new leader next week.

The 54-year-old English, from a farming background, lacks the charisma of the affable Key but is recognised as the economic brain who guided the centre-right administration through the global financial crisis.

"I am announcing today that I will be a candidate for the leadership of the National Party," English said following the caucus meeting.

"I can see fantastic opportunities for stronger economic performance, for spreading the benefits of growth for all New Zealanders and for getting stuck into some of our most retractable social problems."

Although snap polls in local news media on Tuesday supported Key’s decision to back his long-time deputy, the 50-year-old Coleman said it was time for a change.

"I am seeking party leadership and I am absolutely up for the challenge. I believe I’ve got the energy, I’ve got the relative youth on my side, and I am absolutely focused on winning this leadership contest," he said.

"I feel it needs generational change, it’s going to need new thinking in policy areas, it’s going to need new personnel."

English is a veteran MP, having entered parliament in 1990 and he was at the helm of the National Party when it suffered its worst election defeat in 2002.

Coleman was first elected to parliament 11 years ago after practising as a doctor in New Zealand, Britain and Australia.

In 2014, he became the first doctor in 70 years to be responsible for New Zealand’s health portfolio. — AFP

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