During a news conference Tuesday morning, Premier Ed Stelmach announced he is stepping down as the premier of Alberta and Conservative leader. Stelmach said after 25 years serving in politics, he has decided he won't run in the next provincial election.

"I am not prepared to serve another full term as premier," said Stelmach.

His announcement comes after saying to his colleagues in recent months that he wants at least a five-year commitment out of them going forward. Stelmach said that had him reflecting on his time in office.

"As I have been having these discussions I have also been reflecting on my own commitment to serve beyond the next election."

Stelmach said at a later date, he plans to serve the president of the PC Party his letter of resignation. 

"Until I provide the formal notice of intent to resign, I will continue to govern to fulfill commitments I made in the last general election."

My successor will be under no obligation to go to the polls in March of 2012.

Stelmach added that was his timetable and his timetable alone.

"My successor has the parliamentary authority to call an election anytime up to the constitutional deadline of March of 2013."

Finance Minister Ted Morton praised Stelmach for a job he thinks was well done.

"Ed Stelmach became premier at the peak of the biggest boom, 18 months later...worst recession in the world. I doubt anyone would have done any better than Premier Ed Stelmach has done," said Morton.

NDP Leader Brian Mason said polling shows Stelmach's popularity numbers are low, which would provide a target during an election.

"I think there is no doubt that campaigns of some of the other parties might focus on him personally given that he trails his own party in his polls," said Mason.

Polls also show the Tories are neck-and-neck with the Wildrose Alliance. 

Stelmach did predict the next election will "focus on personality and U.S. style negative, attack politics that is directed at me personally."

"The danger is that it could allow for an extreme right party to disguise itself as a moderate party by focusing on personality -- on me personally."

Wildrose Alliance Party Leader Danielle Smith told reporters she didn't know who Stelmach was referring to when he mentioned an "extreme right party" in his speech.

"If you look at how we have conducted ourselves as a party we have stayed completely focused on the issues," said Smith.

Smith said Stelmach's announcement clearly shows that the PC Party is in "complete disarray" and added she believes Stelmach was forced out.

Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel told CTV News he was shocked to hear the news that Stelmach has decided to leave his post, but wishes him well.

"I was a huge fan of the premier. He was a fine, fine man who was I think a great representative of the Province of Alberta. I wish him and his wife Maureen the best," said Mandel.

Stelmach became the premier in December of 2006. He led the PC party to a large majority government in 2008, winning 72 of a possible 83 seats.

The session will start Feb.22nd, with the budget to be unveiled soon after. He did report the budget will be a difficult one. Stelmach had always planned to eliminate the deficit by next spring, but said that won't happen now until 2013.

With files from Kevin Armstrong and CTV.ca