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Canada's Liberal Party leader says to step down soon
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08:36, December 09, 2008

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Leader of Canada's biggest opposition Liberal Party Stephane Dion announced on Monday he will step down once a successor is chosen, possibly in a few days.

Dion, who had intended to stay on until next May, made the announcement amid mounting pressure from party members on him to leave, as the Liberals await a showdown with the ruling Conservatives in a budget vote by the end of January.

In a Monday statement, Dion said he plans to "step aside as leader of the Liberal Party effective as soon as my successor is duly chosen."

He said recent political changes have forced him to reconsider his earlier decision to stay on as leader of the Liberal Party until a convention scheduled for May.

"As the Governor General has granted a prorogation, it is a logical time for us Liberals to assess how we can best prepare our party to carry this fight forward," Dion said in the statement.

"There is a sense in the party, and certainly in the caucus, that given these new circumstances the new leader needs to be in place before the House resumes. I agree. I recommend this course to my party and caucus."

Dion, a former Liberal government minister from Quebec, was elected as the Liberal leader in December 2006. His struggling English and lack of charm have been blamed as the major reason for the Liberals' heavy loss during the Oct. 14 election, one of the worst in the party's history.

Since earlier this month when the Liberals signed an agreement with the New Democrats to form a coalition government to replace the ruling Conservatives, Dion has been facing greater pressure to step down, as some party members tend to blame him for the public's lukewarm response to the coalition.

The Liberals have vowed to defy the government once Parliament is resumed on Jan. 26. A budget, which is a confidence matter, will be tabled on Jan. 27.

Party officials have pointed Michael Ignatieff, a former Harvard academic and writer, as the most likely successor to Dion. He could be voted as the new leader at a caucus meeting as early as Wednesday, reports say.


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