NEWS

NDP to choose new leader today

03/23/2012 11:02 EDT | Updated 05/23/2012 05:12 EDT

New Democrats will vote Saturday to choose the person who will succeed Jack Layton and lead the Official Opposition against Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Seven candidates remain, with the first ballot result to be revealed at 10 a.m. ET. Two names will drop off the first ballot: that of Romeo Saganash, who had been the eighth candidate in the race but dropped out after the ballots were prepared, and that of the contestant with the lowest number of votes.

More than 55,000 of 131,000 eligible members voted in advance and about 4,200 members are registered at the convention.

Those still in the running each had 20 minutes to speak on Friday, in a last attempt to sway NDP members to vote for them.

Some of the speeches were rocky, with perceived frontrunner Thomas Mulcair’s entrance taking up almost half the time he was allotted. Peggy Nash also started late into her allotted time, then had to work off-script for the last part of her speech after a teleprompter mishap. She got cut off by music after going over her time.

Others, including Niki Ashton, Nathan Cullen, Paul Dewar and Brian Topp, had stronger performances.

The differences in performance led to a spat between some of the party’s old guard. Former party leader Ed Broadbent, who had been credited with the most successful election result before Layton led the party to 103 seats in the House last May, said Mulcair’s speech bombed. Broadbent is a vocal Topp supporter and criticized Mulcair in interviews the week prior to the convention.

Former party leader Alexa McDonough said on CBC's Power & Politics with Evan Solomon that she didn’t think any former party leader should take “a sledgehammer” to any of the contestants, considering how it could be used against them by political opponents back in the House of Commons. McDonough supports Nash for the leadership.

Former MP Lorne Nystrom, speaking later on Power & Politics, called Broadbent’s comments unbecoming of a former leader. Nystrom is helping run Mulcair's campaign.

Voting continued online overnight until 9 a.m. ET Saturday and most candidates were hosting hospitality suites Friday night where supporters could try to sway undecided voters.

Friday night was dedicated to a tribute to Layton, a mix of video and live presentation. Layton's children, Sarah and Mike, spoke, and party officials announced they would name their headquarters in Ottawa after him. The tribute took as a theme the chalk messages left outside Toronto City Hall after Layton's death. MP Olivia Chow, Layton's widow, talked about his legacy and volunteers passed out T-shirts emblazoned with "I am Layton's legacy."

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