Leo Varadkar, an Irish minister of Indian origin, has been backed by the leaders of the ruling Fine Gael party and Cabinet colleagues as its next prime ministerial candidate, PTI reported on Monday. The deadline for the MPs to put in their nominations ended on Saturday.
Varadkar is the only openly gay minister in Ireland’s Cabinet. “I am not counting my chickens,” he said. “I am really humbled at the level of support I have received from my colleagues and I am really looking forward to the hustings and the debates.” He announced his candidacy after Enda Kenny decided to step down from his post of prime minister, called Taoiseach in Ireland.
His main opponent Simon Coveney, 44, is the housing minister in the current Cabinet. “Leo has got off to a good start, but there are two weeks to go so we will see how that plays out,” Coveney said.
Members of Parliament from the centre-right party voted in favour of Vardarkar, giving him 45 of the 71 votes. However, he will also need to secure votes from the party’s non-parliamentary members and county councillors to become prime minister. The voting is likely to be held in June.
He has campaigned for same-sex marriage and liberal abortion laws in the past. Ireland became the first country to legalise gay marriage by a popular vote in 2015. However, abortion is illegal in the country, and has been the subject of widespread protests.