SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull survived a leadership challenge by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton on Tuesday, a government official said, which came after weeks of speculation and falling opinion poll ratings.
Turnbull won the vote for the leadership of the Liberal Party, the senior party in the center-right government coalition, over Dutton by 48 votes to 35, chief government whip Nola Marino told reporters.
Turnbull declared the leadership of the government open earlier on Tuesday amid a backbench uprising as opinion polls showed the government on course for a heavy defeat by the opposition Labor party in an election due next year.
Turnbull’s position remains in jeopardy despite surviving Dutton’s leadership challenge.
“We’ve seen it so often in Australian politics – this two-stage act play in removing a prime minister – and, given how close the vote was, there’s definitely more to come,” said Haydon Manning, a political science professor at Flinders University in South Australia state.
Dutton, a conservative who has won the support of the powerful right wing of the Liberal Party, resigned from the Cabinet after losing the vote, Sky News reported.
(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Paul Tait