Pop­u­lar New Zealand PM John Key re­signs

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Pop­u­lar New Zealand Prime Min­is­ter John Key an­nounced his shock res­ig­na­tion yes­ter­day, say­ing he was never a ca­reer politi­cian and it was the right time to go af­ter eight years in the job. The for­mer Mer­rill Lynch cur­rency trader called it “the hard­est de­ci­sion I’ve ever made”, with no plans on what to do next other than spend more time with his family. “Be­ing leader of both the party and the coun­try has been an in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence,” he told a reg­u­lar weekly news con­fer­ence. “But de­spite the amaz­ing ca­reer I have had in pol­i­tics, I have never seen my­self as a ca­reer politi­cian.” Key re­cently marked his eighth an­niver­sary as prime min­is­ter and 10th year as leader of the cen­tre-right Na­tional Party, which is set to meet next week to elect his suc­ces­sor.

His deputy Bill English, who led the party to its worst re­sult in the 2002 elec­tion, is widely seen as fa­vorite to take over and was en­dorsed by Key, al­though he did not im­me­di­ately con­firm he wanted the role. “Cer­tainly, I wouldn’t stand if there wasn’t strong cau­cus sup­port for me stand­ing,” he said, adding that since the 2002 flop he had re­ceived “a mas­ter­class ev­ery day from John Key about how to do pol­i­tics”. As dis­cus­sion about Key’s de­ci­sion to walk away swirled around so­cial me­dia, the down-to-earth politi­cian-once voted the leader most New Zealan­ders would love to have a beer with-in­sisted he was “not the kind of guy that has to hang on to power for power’s sake”.

Opin­ion polls had con­sis­tently pointed to him be­com­ing the first po­lit­i­cal leader in New Zealand his­tory to win four con­sec­u­tive elec­tions when the coun­try votes next year, but he said records were not a con­sid­er­a­tion. “If you’re stay­ing for the record of the time you’re stay­ing for the wrong rea­son,” he said. “It’s been an in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence and it’s been a real priv­i­lege and I’m go­ing to die happy-I hope that’s a long time in the fu­ture-but I’m go­ing to feel re­ally proud of what we’ve done,” he said.

‘Say it ain’t so bro’

Key came into pol­i­tics rel­a­tively late, en­ter­ing par­lia­ment in 2002 and as­sum­ing lead­er­ship of the Na­tional Party four years later. By 2008 he had ended nine years of La­bor Party rule, oust­ing then­prime min­is­ter He­len Clark. He won plau­dits for his lead­er­ship dur­ing a string of crises in his first term, in­clud­ing a dev­as­tat­ing earth­quake in Christchurch in Fe­bru­ary 2011 which claimed 185 lives.

The 55-year-old also stead­ied the econ­omy af­ter the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis with­out re­sort­ing to hard-line spend­ing cuts, in­stead tak­ing a steady, prag­matic ap­proach that saw the bud­get re­turn to sur­plus in the 2015-16 fi­nan­cial year for the first time since 2008.When he heard the news, Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull sent him a brief text mes­sage: “Say it ain’t so bro”, telling re­porters in Mel­bourne he con­sid­ered his close friend “one of the most out­stand­ing na­tional lead­ers in the world to­day”. New Zealand op­po­si­tion La­bor Party leader An­drew Lit­tle ac­knowl­edged Key’s pop­u­lar­ity but said he un­der­stood why he was walk­ing away. “Pol­i­tics re­quires much sac­ri­fice. We may all be politi­cians, but not all our lives are pol­i­tics,” Lit­tle tweeted. For­mer Prime Min­is­ter Clark, now the head of the UN De­vel­op­ment Pro­gram, praised Key for work­ing “tire­lessly to pro­mote New Zealand and its in­ter­ests”. Key felt he was “go­ing out on top”, and wanted to spend more time with his wife Bron­agh and chil­dren Stephanie and Max. “It would be easy to say I have made this de­ci­sion solely to re­dis­cover the per­sonal and family life I once had, and that is a fac­tor, but it is one among many,” he said. “Over the years I have ob­served many lead­ers who, in a sim­i­lar position, fail to take this step.

I can un­der­stand why. It is a hard job to leave.”The New Zealand dol­lar dipped slightly but econ­o­mists ex­pected it to be a short­term blip as Key’s en­dorse­ment of English as his re­place­ment meant there would be lit­tle change to eco­nomic pol­icy. — AFP

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