Illness forces NDP to choose interim leader

Thu Jul 28, 2011 11:10am EDT
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's main opposition New Democratic Party chose an interim leader on Thursday to take over temporarily from Jack Layton, who stepped down this week to fight a second bout of cancer.

The party appointed legislator Nycole Turmel after Layton made clear she was his choice. Turmel, 68, is a former public sector union leader who was elected to Parliament in this year's May 2 election.

Turmel, who does not have deep roots in the party, would not run in a leadership race if Layton is forced to quit politics. He says he wants to return on September 19, when Parliament resumes, but party officials are already conceding he might not be back by then.

Layton led the left-leaning party to its best ever performance in the May 2 federal election, securing the position as the official opposition for the first time.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson)