New Zealand Prime Minister John Key unexpectedly steps down to focus on his family

 
Courtney Goldsmith
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John Key won his place in office for the Nationals in 2008 (Source: Getty)

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key unexpectedly announced his resignation today after eight years in power.

Key was partway through a third three-year term marked by political stability and economic reform after the global financial crisis when he told reporters he would step down to focus on family, Reuters reported.

Deputy prime minister and finance minister Bill English is Key's pick for the country's next PM. English said he would likely decide overnight whether to stand for leadership of the centre-right National Party.

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Key said he would stay in parliament long enough to avoid a by-election for his seat. National elections are not expected until late 2017.

"It leaves the Cabinet and caucus plenty of time to settle in with a new Prime Minister before heading into election year with a proud record of strong economic management," Key told reporters in Wellington.

"I am hugely confident that National can and will win the next election."

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Analysts said English would likely continue with many of Key's core policies, and ratings agency Moody's said New Zealand should experience a smooth transition and policy continuity.

The New Zealand dollar fell around a fifth of a US cent following the news and was last trading around $0.71.

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