05/22/2011 08:15 pm ET | Updated Jul 20, 2011

Liberals Look To Delay Leadership Vote

OTTAWA - Federal Liberals will be asked to postpone electing a new leader for 18 to 22 months.

Under the party's constitution, a vote should take place by late October to choose a successor to Michael Ignatieff, who resigned after leading the once-mighty party to a historic defeat on May 2.

But the party's board of directors has unanimously finalized a plan to get around that constitutional requirement.

The party will stage a special virtual convention on June 18, at which delegates will be asked to amend the constitution.

The proposed amendment calls for a new leader to be chosen sometime between Nov. 1, 2012, and Feb. 28, 2013.

The precise date would be set five months in advance by the board, in consultation with the Liberals' parliamentary caucus and riding presidents.

If approved by two-thirds of the delegates, the amendment would give shell-shocked Liberals at least one full year to rebuild before plunging into a leadership contest.

Party president Alf Apps says rules will be issued to ensure prospective leadership candidates don't start actively campaigning or fundraising before the official starting gun goes off.

The Liberal caucus is to meet Wednesday to recommend an interim leader.

Toronto MP Bob Rae is widely thought to be a shoo-in for the temporary post. The former Ontario NDP premier announced Thursday that he's giving up his longterm leadership ambitions in order to stand for interim leader -- a condition laid down by the party's board.

Delegates to the June special convention will also be asked to postpone the party's next biennial policy convention, which is supposed to be held by the end of the year, to Jan. 13-15.

The party was reduced to a rump of 34 seats in the May 2 election, falling to third place behind the NDP. Ignatieff lost his own seat in the bloodbath.

It was also unanimously endorsed by provincial and territorial wings of the party and the caucus leadership.

The Canadian Press.