New Zealand’s Prime Minister Says He Will Step Down

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – New Zealand’s prime minister, John Key, surprised the country Monday by announcing he would resign next week, citing a desire to spend more time with his family.

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Key, 55, has been in office since November 2008 and led the conservative National Party to election victories in 2011 and 2014. The next election is scheduled for next year, and Key had been seen as the likely favorite.

Key, a former Merrill Lynch executive, said Monday that he had never wanted to be a career politician and did not know what he would do next, the New York Times reported.

“Throughout these years I have given everything I could to this job that I cherish, and this country that I love,” he said in a statement. “All of this has come at quite some sacrifice for the people who are dearest to me — my family.”

Key said that he would resign on Dec. 12 and that his party would choose a new leader and prime minister that same day. Key said he would support whomever the party chose but that he would vote for Bill English, his deputy prime minister and finance minister, if English put his name forward.

English was involved in Key’s initiative to partially privatize state-owned utilities and, like the prime minister, was an enthusiastic supporter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the multilateral trade deal that has been put in doubt with Donald J. Trump’s election to the presidency of the United States. English was not immediately available for comment.

Key was prime minister during the 2011 earthquake in the city of Christchurch, which killed 185 people.

During his tenure, he also pushed for New Zealand to adopt a new flag, saying the old one symbolized a bygone colonial era. But voters chose to keep the old flag in a nationwide referendum.

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