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Martin resigns

[PoliticsWatch Updated 1:00 a.m. January 24, 2006]

OTTAWA  — In an attempt to stave off further damage to his party, Prime Minister Paul Martin announced Tuesday morning that he will resign as Liberal leader. 

"I will continue to represent the people of Lasalle - Emard," Martin told the somewhat stunned supporters in his riding.

"But I will not lead the Liberal party into the next election.

"Over the coming days I will consult the caucus and the leadership of the party to undertake a transition. "

Martin's decision to quit ends his life-long effort to lead the Liberal party and be prime minister. 

His two years and two month helm as leader of the party makes his tenure the shortest in the history of the Liberal party.

Martin and the Liberals were defeated by the Conservatives in Monday evening's federal election. 

In the same speech, Martin also concede defeat to Harper.

"The people of Canada have chosen him to lead a minority government. I wish him the best."

Martin and his party's war room spent the last two weeks of the campaign declaring that Harper and his caucus were right-wing extremists whose views came from the well-spring of the U.S. conservative movement. 

Martin's Quebec lieutenant Jean Lapierre said he was surprised by Martin's quick decision to resign. 

Two years ago this month, Martin was riding high in the polls and looked posed to win a majority government in a spring election. During one press conference he openly mused about being prime minister for 10 years. 

But his plans were derailed following a scathing auditor-general's report into the sponsorship scandal. 

Martin called an inquiry into the scandal and that created a war within the Liberal party, as some considered the inquiry nothing more than pay back against Martin's nemesis, former prime minister Jean Chretien. 

The rifts in the party created problems for the Liberals, especially in this election campaign. 

The Montreal Gazette reported Monday that dozens of Liberal organizers who were Chretien supporters in Quebec were working for the Tories in this campaign in an effort to remove Martin as leader of the Liberal party.

And there were a number of political bombs dropped during the campaign that most observers believed were linked to disgruntled Liberals.

As well, Martin's campaign was met with numerous gaffes by his spin doctors and candidates across the country. 

The Canadian Press reported Tuesday that unnamed Martin strategists were blaming the RCMP decision to comment on an investigation into the government and what they described as a pro-Harper media for their campaign coming off the rails. 

Martin's resignation will set the stage for a leadership race for the Liberals. 

The current front runner is Frank McKenna, the former New Brunswick premier who is now Canada's ambassador to the Washington. 

La Presse reported last week that top Martin organizers are ready to back McKenna in any leadership campaign.  

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