LONDON– Former Treasury chief Rishi Sunak won the race for the Conservative Party leadership on Monday and will become Britain’s next prime minister – the third this year.
The former finance chief will become Britain’s first black man and is tasked with stabilizing the party and the country at a time of economic and political turmoil.
His only rival, Penny Mordaunt, conceded and withdrew.
As leader of the ruling party, he takes over as prime minister from Liz Truss, who resigned last week after 45 turbulent days in office.
Sunak had been the big favorite as the ruling Conservative Party sought stability amid immense economic challenges and after months of chaos that consumed the last two leaders.
Sunak’s position was strengthened after former leader Boris Johnson was eliminated from the Conservative Party’s leadership contest. The party is electing Britain’s third prime minister this year after Liz Truss resigned after a tumultuous 45-day tenure.
MORE: Britain’s Prime Minister Liz Truss resigns, ending six-week term after politics sparked economic turmoil
Sunak lost to Truss in the last Conservative election, but his party and the country now appear eager for a safe pair of hands to deal with soaring energy and food prices and a looming recession. The politician steered the economy through the coronavirus pandemic, earning praise for his financial support for laid-off workers and closed businesses.
He has promised “integrity, professionalism and accountability” if he forms a government – a nod to the growing desire for a leader who can tackle the country’s problems.
Earlier in the day, the 42-year-old was the only candidate with confirmed support from more than 100 lawmakers, the number required for the election, with his supporters claiming he had the backing of more than half of the 357 Conservative lawmakers in Parliament. Mordaunt had hoped to reach the threshold by the end of the nomination period – but she backed down.
This means that Sunak is now the leader of the Conservative Party and is being asked by King Charles III to form a government. He will become prime minister at a transfer of power from Truss later Monday or Tuesday.
Sunak, who was chief financial officer from 2020 until this summer, resigned in July in protest at Johnson’s leadership.
Johnson ended the race dramatically on Sunday night, ending a short-lived, high-profile attempt to return to the prime minister’s job, from which he had been ousted just over three months ago amid ethics scandals.
Johnson spent the weekend rallying support from fellow Conservative lawmakers after flying back from a Caribbean vacation. Late Sunday, he said he had amassed the support of 102 colleagues. But he was far behind Sunak, saying he had concluded that “unless you have a unified party in parliament, you cannot govern effectively”.
The prospect of Johnson’s return had thrown the already divided Conservative Party into further turmoil. He led the party to a resounding election victory in 2019, but his position as prime minister was marred by money and ethics scandals that eventually became too much for the party to bear.
In his statement on Sunday, Johnson insisted he was “well placed to secure a Conservative victory” in the next national election, due in 2024. And he said he was likely to have won a vote by Conservative Party members against one of his rivals.
“But unfortunately over the past few days I’ve come to the conclusion that that just wouldn’t be the right thing to do,” he said.
However, he hinted he could be back, saying: “I think I have a lot to offer but I’m afraid this is just not the right time.”
Truss resigned on Thursday after a turbulent 45 days in office, admitting she could not implement her botched tax-cut economic package, which she had to abandon after it sparked anger within her party and weeks of turmoil in financial markets.
Conservative Party unrest fuels calls for a national election. Under Britain’s parliamentary system, there is not to be one by the end of 2024, although the government has the power to convene one earlier.
That currently looks unlikely. According to opinion polls, an election would spell disaster for the Conservatives, with the centre-left Labor Party winning a large majority.
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https://6abc.com/rishi-sunak-uk-prime-minister-british-pm-liz-truss/12369839/ Rishi Sunak to become next British prime minister following Liz Truss resignation