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Rishi Sunak set to take over as next UK PM

Conservative Party leadership candidate Rishi Sunak leaves the campaign office in London, Oct 24, 2022. (ABERTO PEZZALI / AP)

LONDON – Rishi Sunak, former chancellor of the exchequer of the United Kingdom, 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 pm local time, thus becoming the winner automatically. 

ALSO READ: British PM candidate Sunak plans to cut energy costs

Another contender, Penny Mordaunt, leader of the House of Commons, failed to garner enough votes.

The United Kingdom is a great country but we face a profound economic crisis … I want to fix our economy, unite our party and deliver for our country.

Rishi Sunak, Leader, Conservative Party

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.

Monday's victory was second time lucky for Sunak. In his 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. 

READ MORE: UK PM Truss resigns, new leader expected next week

In his official statement announcing his candidacy, Sunak said on Sunday that "The United Kingdom is a great country but we face a profound economic crisis … I want to fix our economy, unite our party and deliver for our country."

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.