Former Irish foreign minister Micheal Martin defeated Finance Minister Brian Lenihan to become leader of Fianna Fail, the country’s dominant political party.
Martin, 50, will become the party’s eighth leader, after fending off three other challengers, led by Lenihan, Dublin- based Fianna Fail said on its Web site. He succeeds Brian Cowen, who is staying on as prime minister until national elections, due to take place within six weeks.
Cork-native Martin resigned earlier this month to challenge Cowen as polls showed support for the party dropped to a record- low. While Cowen won a confidence motion, he said on Jan. 22 that he would step down after his coalition partner, the Greens, thwarted a plan to appoint new cabinet members weeks before the election.
Martin “is a good communicator and will get the message across to the public,” Fianna Fail lawmaker Michael Kennedy said in an interview. “He will give a lift to the party in the election.”
Martin’s first task will be to halt the decline in support for the organization, which has been in power since 1997. Backing for the party has slumped to 14 percent, a poll carried out this month showed. Fine Gael has 35 percent support, according to the poll, carried out by Red C for Dublin-based bookmaker Paddy Power Plc.
Since Cowen succeeded Bertie Ahern 2 1/2 years ago, unemployment has doubled, the financial system has come close to collapse and emigration resumed.
Cowen appointed Martin foreign minister in 2008. Martin earlier filled the health and enterprise portfolios. A former teacher, he was first elected a lawmaker to the Irish parliament in 1989.
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