Conservative Victorian Liberal powerbroker Marcus Bastiaan is set to quit the party’s key decision-making body, citing the illness of a family member as the reason for standing down.
In a surprise announcement, Mr Bastiaan confirmed he and his wife Stephanie, also a conservative Liberal activist, had both stepped back from their party activities.
Mr Bastiaan, 28, has been credited with driving the party to the conservative right by rigorously recruiting new members from organisations such as Mormon churches.
He is an ally of party president Michael Kroger and their faction now dominates administrative committee giving them a huge influence over the party’s direction.
Mr Bastiaan was elected metropolitan vice-president of the influential Victorian Liberal administrative committee early this year. But he said family circumstances meant he was now unable to put in the volunteer hours required in the senior role.
“Due to serious health issues in our immediate family, Stephanie and I have decided to step aside from our key roles in the Liberal Party for the time being,” Mr Bastiaan said.
“It has not been an easy decision to make as we love being involved, but for the foreseeable future our priorities need to be with our family.
“With two elections on the horizon, the party needs committed volunteerism from its senior office bearers - as we are struggling to provide this, it’s best to hand the baton on to members who can.”
Mr Bastiaan had proven a divisive figure among some elements of the parliamentary party. On Thursday upper house Liberal MP Bernie Finn is believed to have put up a disparaging post on Facebook alluding to Mr Bastiaan's intention of stepping aside.
However, he was ordered to take it down by senior party figures.
Ms Bastiaan has held a senior role in the party's women's section, and mounted an unsuccessful challenge against Liberal MP Gary Blackwood for his regional Victorian electorate of Narracan.
Mr Bastiaan’s decision to quit will create a casual vacancy that will need to be filled by a vote of the party’s state assembly, which will hold its next meeting in October.
It is understood Mr Bastiaan’s faction is confident it holds the numbers to anoint a replacement at the coming assembly meeting.
Committee member Ian Quick confirmed he will enter the race to replace Mr Bastiaan.
Mr Quick is associated with the more moderate sections of the party, and has written newsletters criticising the administrative committee’s internal processes.
"Hopefully this is the beginning of the end for this minor empire," one senior Liberal source said.