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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 March 2006, 15:23 GMT
Q&A: Lib Dem election
The Liberal Democrats have elected Sir Menzies Campbell as their new leader. The BBC News website looks at how the contest worked.

Why was the election called?

Party leader Charles Kennedy resigned on 7 February, two days after admitting he had a drink problem. He had come under extra pressure when 25 MPs, including several frontbenchers, had signed an ultimatum calling for him to go.

Who were the candidates?

There were three contenders: acting leader and foreign affairs spokesman Sir Menzies, party president Simon Hughes and economic spokesman Chris Huhne. Ex-home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten had planned to stand but pulled out citing lack of support from the party's MPs.

What were the rules for standing?

Any MP wanting to run had to get the backing of at least seven of his or her colleagues and of 200 party members, from at least 20 different constituencies.

How did the election work?

On 6 February, ballots were sent to the party's 73,000 members. The vote closed on 1 March, with the result announced on 2 March. The Lib Dems use the single transferable vote system, where members list preferences and votes from the least popular candidate are reassigned to others. This lasts until a winner - with more than 50% of votes - emerges.

How has the contest gone?

The election, especially in its earlier stages, was dogged by negative publicity. Mr Oaten - who had already quit the contest - was forced to stand down as home affairs spokesman following newspaper revelations of an affair with a male prostitute. Mr Hughes apologised if he had misled anyone over his sexuality after it was revealed he had homosexual relationships in the past. Otherwise, the contest has failed to capture the media's imagination in the way last year's Conservative leadership election did.

So it's all been bad?

On the contrary, the Lib Dems were buoyed last month when the party confounded the polls and many commentators and pulled off a huge upset in the Dunfermline and Fife West by-election, winning by overturning an 11,562 Labour majority.

What was the leadership result?

In the first round of voting, Sir Menzies polled 23,264, Mr Huhne 16,691 and Mr Hughes 12,081.

After Mr Hughes's second preference votes were re-distributed, the final tally of the 52,036 votes was Sir Menzies 29,697 and Mr Huhne 21,628, on a 72% turnout of the membership.

What happens next?

Sir Menzies enters a whirlwind few days, with the Lib Dem spring conference starting in Harrogate on Friday. Campaigning for May's local elections then gets under way.




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