A major political surprise in New Zealand yesterday, when John Key announced his resignation as prime minister. After eight years in office, Key was widely expected to lead his National Party in elections next year...we have more from Neal Conan in today's Pacific News Minute.
For once, just about everybody believes a politician who says he's resigning to spend more time with his family. In a sometimes quavering voice, John Key told a news conference in Auckland yesterday of the sacrifices made by his wife, who he said endured many lonely nights, and his children, who faced what he called extraordinary levels of intrusion. "Now is the right time for me to take a step back in my career and spend more time at home."
He will leave office as one of New Zealand's most popular prime ministers. First elected in 2008, he lead his country through the financial crisis, headed the effort to rebuild Christchurch, its second largest city, after earthquakes in 2011, and he repaired long strained defense ties with the United States. Last month, the destroyer USS Sampson became the first US warship to visit New Zealand in almost forty years.
Key lead his center right National Party to victory three times...in the last election, in 2014, he brushed off allegations that his Party funneled dirt on his opponents to a right wing blog. Key also denied charges of mass surveillance by NSA leaker Edward Snowden and the Prime Minister sometimes called Teflon John escaped any serious taint from the Panama papers where New Zealand was identified as a tax haven.
Key's resignation takes effect next Monday, when the National party will name a new leader and Prime Minister and whoever emerges will have less than a year before new elections.