Kevin Aylward announced Wednesday he plans to step down as leader of the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador.

"I believe the leader of the party should have the confidence of the electorate. And given that my seat was not achieved, I believe a further leadership process should be enacted," Aylward told a hastily-called news conference.

There have been questions surrounding his political future since the Oct. 11 provincial election, when he led the Liberals to six seats, but was unable to win his own race in St. George's-Stephenville East against Education Minister Joan Burke.

Aylward said he has had requests from within the party to stay on, but he believes that would only raise questions about his credibility as a leader, and would prevent the party from rebuilding.

"It's been a privilege to be the leader for this time period and to work through our situation this summer, and to also help steer the party to the next level, where I believe we can get in the next period of time. It's an extremely important time for the province coming up, and our caucus will be ready and so will the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador."

The provincial Liberal executive appointed Aylward, 51, as leader in August, soon after Yvonne Jones stepped aside to focus on her recovery from breast cancer treatments.

Aylward had left politics in 2003, after representing the Stephenville area in the house for 18 years. He had served in numerous cabinet portfolios under four consecutive Liberal premiers.

The Liberals retained Official Opposition status after this month's election, although their caucus has just one more member than the NDP.

Aylward will stay in the role until a new leader is chosen.