Finance Minister Bill English has been endorsed by retiring premier John Key to be the next leader of New Zealand. But there are other names in the ring for the top job.
Premier John Key's surprise resignation the day before led to commitments from other cabinet members to challenge for the premiership on Tuesday.
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman and and Police Minister Judith Collins said they would also stand and other possible contenders such as senior Cabinet ministers Steven Joyce and Paula Bennett have not run out standing for the leadership.
Finance minister and deputy leader of the National Party Bill English (photo) led the party to an election loss in 2002. "You learn more from losing than winning," he told the New Zealand Herald newspaper. English, who is considered the frontrunner for the leadership, told reporters after a caucus meeting at parliament on Tuesday that he had "plenty of strong indications of support."
"I can see fantastic opportunities for stronger economic performance, for spreading the benefits of growth for more New Zealanders ... I am a candidate for the leadership," English told reporters after the caucus meeting held in Wellington's "Beehive" parliament building. He said he would deliver tax cuts and spread the country's wealth to where it was needed.
A leadership ballot will be held by the National Party to decide who will replace Key, who had been the country's leader since 2008.
A UMR survey of voters in early October gave English 21 percent support, followed by Joyce on 16 percent, Bennett on 11 percent and Collins on 6 percent.
Coleman told reporters after the meeting "I am seeking the party leadership and I am absolutely up for the challenge. I believe I have got the energy, I have got relative youth on my side and I am absolutely focused on winning this leadership contest." He said he was standing as he sensed "an appetite for change." Coleman was first elected to parliament 11 years ago after practising as a doctor in New Zealand, Britain and Australia.
The government is in the midst of a three-year term with elections scheduled for late 2017.
There have been two earthquakes in Christchurch, the largest city on New Zealand's South Island, during Key's tenure, which caused substantial damage.
jm/bw (Reuters, AFP, AP)