Brian Cowen has stepped down as leader of Fianna Fail but hopes to remain as Prime Minster until the upcoming election.

He made his decision known at a press conference in Dublin today. He stated he had “done the right thing” and made the decision last night.

He thanked his wife and family for their support.

His position as party leader had become untenable after a botched attempt to force six of his ministers to resign and replace them with younger members of his party. He did not consult the minority party in his coalition, the Green Party, on his move and they objected and threatened to bring down the government.

Despite the fact that he had won a vote of confidence from his party on Tuesday last, his move on cabinet ministers rebounded badly on him and the party turned on him.

He hopes to remain as Prime Minster because the position is separate from party leader. In addition, his party does not have the votes anymore to elect a new Prime Minister.

His most likely replacement as party leader is Micheal Martin, former Foreign Minster who challenged Cowen on Tuesday and lost.

The election date was set for March 11 but it may be sooner now because a Labor Party vote of no confidence in the government is coming next week. If that succeeds, there would be a mid to late February date for the election.