SYDNEY (AFP) – Julian Assange on Thursday took responsibility for the resignation of a key candidate from his WikiLeaks Party running in Australian elections, blaming his focus on Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning.
The fledgling party is in crisis after its number two candidate for the Australian Senate behind Assange, ethicist Leslie Cannold, said she was disillusioned with its lack of transparency and accountability and quit Wednesday.
She would have likely taken the WikiLeaks founder's place in the upper house in the event the party was successful in the September 7 polls and Assange was unable to return to Australia, his home country.
Other members of the party, which has vowe d to closely scrutinise any government in power, have also walked away, including four of its 11 governing National Council representatives.
Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuadoran embassy in London for more than a year fighting extradition to Sweden where he is wanted for questioning over sexual assault claims, admitted he had not been as focused as he should have.
"I made a decision two months ago to spend a lot of my time on dealing with the Edward Snowden asylum situation and trying to save the life of a young man (Bradley Manning)," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
"Now, the result is over-delegation, so I admit and I accept full responsibility for over-delegating functions to the Australian party while I tried to take care of those situations.
"It's not easy obviously being a party leader at a distance with a nine-hour time delay."
Snowden, who is wanted by Washington on espionage charges linked to his disclosures about the secret details of US surveillance programmes, was granted asylum by Russia on August 1 after spending some five weeks at Moscow's airport.
Assange has previously said WikiLeaks personnel had accompanied Snowden constantly since he left Hong Kong and arrived in Sheremetyevo airport's transit zone on June 23.
The former computer hacker has also been heavily involved in the case of Manning, who was sentenced to 35 years in jail on Wednesday after supplying WikiLeaks with hundreds of thousands of confidential US documents.
Cannold's resignation came after a debacle within the WikiLeaks Party over how it would direct its preferences towards other parties on the ballot paper if it did not win a seat, a process which can influence how senators are chosen in Australia.
WikiLeaks supporters were outraged after the party chose to give the far-right Australia First party run by a neo-Nazi and the pro-guns lobby their votes over the left-wing Greens.
Daniel Mathews, a member of the party's 11-person National Council -- which includes Assange and his father John Shipton -- also quit.
Mathews, who in a statement said he had been friends with Assange since university, said he was sorry to be leaving under such circumstances.
"I am afraid that my experiences with this party are not all positive," he said.