February 22, 2018 / 8:57 AM / in 24 days

Embattled Australian deputy PM faces call to step down as party leader

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia’s embattled deputy prime minister, under pressure over an extramarital affair, faced a call to step down as leader of his party on Thursday, the first such call from a member of the party, which is part of the ruling coalition.

FILE PHOTO: Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce reacts as he sits in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, October 25, 2017. AAP/Mick Tsikas/via REUTERS

Barnaby Joyce who has campaigned on “family values” and who has been married for 24 years, refused to resign when it was made public he was expecting a child with his former staffer.

“He needs to step down as leader of the National Party, take a step back into the back bench for a time,” Andrew Broad a member of parliament from Joyce’s National Party told state-owned broadcaster the ABC.

The National Party is in a ruling coalition with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberal Party. The coalition holds a one-seat majority in parliament.

Turnbull has called Joyce’s affair a “shocking error of judgment”.

Broad said he would take up the issue of Joyce’s leadership at a party meeting in the capital, Canberra, on Monday.

His call is the latest sign that support for Joyce from within his rural-based party is eroding, amid concern disapproval of the affair could undermine support in state elections.

A state branch of the party withdrew its support for Joyce this week because of the affair.

Two-thirds of voters want Joyce to resign over the affair, according to the Australian newspaper’s Newspoll.

Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Robert Birsel

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