LONDON – Rishi Sunak, former chancellor of the exchequer of the United Kingdom (UK), on Monday won the ruling Conservative Party's leadership contest. He will replace Liz Truss as the country's new prime minister.
Sunak was the only contender who secured the required backing of 100 lawmakers by the deadline of 2 p.m. local time, thus becoming the winner automatically. Another contender, Penny Mordaunt, leader of the House of Commons, failed to garner enough votes.
Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson withdrew from the contest on Sunday night, despite claiming that he had secured the backing of 102 Tory lawmakers.
Johnson said it was "simply not the right time" for him to stand for the leadership race as "you can't govern effectively unless you have a united party in Parliament."
The leadership race was triggered when Truss announced her resignation on Thursday after a little over six weeks in office. Her economic blueprint, the "mini-budget," was blamed for causing economic chaos and tanking the Conservative Party's poll rating.
In Sunak's first shot at the top job this summer, he lost to Truss in the head-to-head stage of the Tory leadership race, triggered then by scandal-hit Johnson's resignation.
Sunak, 42, is the first person of Indian origin to become UK prime minister.
He inherits an economy that is on the brink of recession as a combination of energy crisis, cost-of-living crisis and runaway inflation defies any easy fix.
His predecessor's solution of debt-funded tax cuts failed to turn the situation around. Truss's economic strategy plunged the British pound to a 37-year low against the US dollar, while pushing up the cost of government borrowing and mortgage rates.
In his first public address as the Tory leader, Sunak said: "There is no doubt we face a profound economic challenge. We now need stability and unity. And I will make it my utmost priority to bring our party and our country together."
The opposition parties, including the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party, have all swiftly renewed their calls for a general election, arguing that the country's people should have a say over who lead the country instead of only the Tory party members calling the shot.
Sunak is expected to meet King Charles III in Buckingham Palace, where the monarch will invite him to form a government, though when the meeting will take place remains unknown. Truss' spokesperson said there won't be a handover to Sunak on Monday. (Xinhua)