New Zealand’s main opposition party ousts leader after shock move

Sydney, Australia, Nov 25 (EFE).- New Zealand’s main opposition party on Thursday ousted Judith Collins as leader after she made a shock move to demote a rival and months of poor polling.

The center-right National Party’s caucus voted in favor of Collins’ dismissal at an emergency meeting Thursday morning.

It was convened after Collins on Wednesday night stripped former party leader and rival Simon Bridges of his portfolios over a complaint about a comment made more than four years ago, which she described as “serious misconduct.” The demotion came amid speculation he was considering a tilt at the top job.

After the caucus vote, Collins played down her ouster, tweeting that it had been a “privilege” to take over the party’s leadership “during the worst of times and to do so for 16 months” over the health and economic crisis caused by Covid-19.

“I knew when I was confided in by a female colleague regarding her allegation of serious misconduct against a senior colleague, that I would likely lose the leadership by taking the matter so seriously,” she said.

National MP Jacqui Dean issued a statement regarding the allegation about Bridges on Thursday.

“About five years ago, Simon Bridges made remarks that upset me at the time. They were not about me, but they were inappropriate and not something I wanted to hear,” Dean said. “At the time there was an apology, but subsequently it has continued to play on my mind.”

Bridges clarified his version of events, saying he had been talking to some MPs during a caucus lunch break, which Dean had joined, and “we discussed our wives, our children, I can remember talking about the fact I had two boys, and I wanted a girl.”

“I engaged in some old wives’ tales about that and how to have a girl,” he said, adding that he had apologized to Dean and did so once more Thursday.

But he also said that “what we saw yesterday was truly desperate stuff from Judith Collins” and did not rule out another bid for leadership.

The party has continued to poll poorly since the resounding win by the Labour Party, led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, in last year’s elections.

Collins, known as the “Crusher” due to her tough style and policy of crushing boy-racer cars, is replaced on an interim basis by Shane Reti until the National Party elects its fifth leader in the last four years next Tuesday.

Despite growing discontent among New Zealanders due to a slow vaccine rollout and Covid restrictions fatigue, the Labour Party’s support is still at 42.7 percent while the National Party’s popularity has declined by around two points to 26.9 percent under Collins’ leadership, according to recent polls. EFE


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