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New Zealand opposition leader leaves role after two months

World News | Published:

The National Party has struggled to dent the popularity of New Zealand’s charismatic prime minister Jacinda Ardern.

Todd Muller

New Zealand’s opposition leader Todd Muller has quit after less than two months in the role and two months away from a general election.

He became leader of the National Party in May, after leading the coup that toppled former leader Simon Bridges.

The 67-year-old said: “It has become clear to me that I am not the best person to be leader of the Opposition and leader of the New Zealand National Party at this critical time for New Zealand.

“It is more important than ever that the New Zealand National Party has a leader who is comfortable in the role.

“The role has taken a heavy toll on me personally, and on my family, and this has become untenable from a health perspective.”

The National Party has recently been embroiled in a scandal after it was revealed that a junior politician leaked private health details of New Zealand Covid-19 patients to the media.

The information was provided by a former party president who received it confidentially in her capacity as acting chief executive of the Auckland rescue helicopter organisation.

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Mr Muller has been widely criticised for his handling of the scandal and the veracity of some of his statements had been challenged.

He was facing questions over when he knew the source of the leak and if he knew one of his most senior MPs had also received the information.

The National Party has struggled to dent the popularity of New Zealand’s charismatic prime minister Jacinda Ardern, whose government has high approval ratings for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

New Zealand has gone 73 days without a case of community transmission and has suffered only 22 deaths.

The party looked to Mr Muller’s strong business credentials and his links to the farming community to solidify the party’s base, but his perceived lack of charisma, especially in comparison to Ms Ardern, failed to lift its polling numbers.

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