WELLINGTON: New Zealand opposition leader David Cunliffe bowed to mounting pressure and quit as head of the Labour Party Saturday, saying he took responsibility for last week’s general election rout.
Cunliffe had faced widespread criticism within the centre-left Labour Party after it won just 24 percent of the vote, its second worst performance in New Zealand political history.
The centre-right National Party of Prime Minister John Key was resoundingly re-elected for a third term with an increased majority to be able to rule for the first time without the need for coalition partners.
Initially Cunliffe refused to step down and take the blame for the defeat, and even in his resignation statement he said he would stand again to seek a fresh mandate to lead the party.
“The party has suffered an historic election loss and in resigning as leader I take responsibility for that,” Cunliffe said.
“The party will review all the contributing factors. That process has begun and I give it my full support.”
However, Cunliffe also took a swipe at his rivals within the caucus, saying “there is no room for division or airing differences”, as local media has feasted on details of ruptures within the Labour Party since last Saturday’s poll.
“The party’s interests must come before any personal interests. I have thought carefully before responding to the calls to re-offer myself for the leadership of the party,” he said.
“Therefore I am announcing today that I will nominate for a primary contest, which will be held across the caucus, the party membership and the affiliates as the party constitution requires.”