Irish PM resigns as Fianna Fáil leader amid calls for early election

DUBLIN – Ireland’s political future was thrown in uncertainty today after the embattled Irish prime minister, Brian Cowen, stepped down as the leader of his party but came under mounting pressure from the opposition to bring forward the country’s general election date from 11 March, The Guardian reports.

Resigning as leader of Fianna Fáil, Cowen insisted that he would remain as taoiseach until Ireland went to the polls and said that he wanted to ensure that vital business, including a finance bill that will implement harsh economic austerity measures, got through the Irish parliament prior to the Dáil being dissolved.

Enda Kenny, leader of the main opposition party, Fine Gael, lambasted Cowen’s move and threatened to table a motion of no confidence in him on Tuesday unless he called an immediate election. Kenny’s finance spokesman said Fine Gael would hold off on the vote and help pass the finance bill if Cowen was prepared to dissolve parliament on Friday and bring the election date forward.

Cowen told journalists that although he wanted the government to continue, it would be better for Fianna Fáil to have a new leader to take the party into the election. “It is the best decision for the party in these circumstances. It was not a cynical move by me,” he said. “I’m concerned that renewed internal criticism of Fianna Fáil is deflecting attention from this important debate.”

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