DUBLIN, Ireland — Prime Minister Brian Cowen said announced Saturday that he had resigned as leader of Ireland's dominant Fianna Fail party but intends to keep leading the government through the March election.
Cowen's surprise move capped a week of political crises that brought his coalition government to the brink of collapse. Never before in Irish history has a politician sought to remain prime minister without being leader of the main government party.
Furious party colleagues called for Cowen to quit as Fianna Fail chief after he bungled an attempted pre-election Cabinet reshuffle Thursday. The other party in Cowen's government, the Greens, blocked his plan to promote six new faces into Cabinet posts — and Cowen failed to anticipate their veto.
The Greens forced Cowen instead to announce a March 11 date for an election that Cowen has sought to delay since November.
Cowen insisted that he had taken his decision to resign as party leader only Saturday morning and had not discussed the move with other Cabinet ministers.