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Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach won't run in next provincial election

EDMONTON - Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach said on Tuesday that after much reflection he has decided not to seek re-election.

The premier said he was approaching his cabinet ministers asking them to commit to five more years in public life when he realized he didn't want to do that himself.

"I have determined that after 25 years of public service, I am not prepared to serve another full term as premier," Stelmach said at a news conference at the provincial legislature.

"There is no doubt that my decision today will come as a shock to many and a disappointment to my friends and Albertans."

He said he will inform the Progressive Conservative party that he will resign as leader at a later date and that will trigger a race for his successor.

The premier has been under increasing pressure as a new party on the right, the Wildrose Alliance, has surged in public opinion polls.

Stelmach became premier in December 2006 after Ralph Klein stepped down. Stelmach managed to uphold what had become a tradition for the Tories, winning a large majority in the 2008 election.

But Stelmach struggled in the province's top job. His mild manner and fumbling style behind the podium drew fire from both inside and outside the party.

His government was also plagued by the recession, which plunged the province into the red and forced it to draw down on savings. Stelmach chose to run large deficits rather than dig too deeply into program spending, as some in the more Conservative wing of the party wanted.

Albertans have to go to the polls no later than March 2013. Stelmach said he had planned to hold the next election by March 2012, but the timetable will be up to the new leader.

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