Conservative Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has defeated a leadership challenge but the high number of votes against him could render him a lame duck.
Abbott’s ruling Liberal Party defeated a motion to unseat him, 61 votes to 39, Reuters reported Monday, citing party whip Philip Ruddock.
However, a consensus across Australian media points to Abbott’s crumbling support from his own party that could weaken his governance, the report said.
The motion was brought on Friday by an MP from Western Australia after mounting criticism of Abbott’s leadership, culminating in his awarding of an Australian knighthood to Queen Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Philip.
No member of the government had indicated a direct challenge to Abbott, although most attention had focused on Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a former party leader toppled by Abbott.
Abbott has faced criticism in recent weeks over policy decisions ranging from his handling of the economy to the knighthood.
Abbott, who had described the call for a leadership vote as a “very chastening experience”, vowed ahead of the poll to be more consultative in his approach after several of his so-called “captain’s calls” backfired on his administration.
If Abbott had been ousted, Australia would have had its sixth prime minister in eight years.
Opinion polls have consistently shown voters prefer Turnbull to lead the party but his views on a carbon trading scheme, marriage equality and support for an Australian republic have made him unpopular with the right wing of his party.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, also deputy leader of Abbott’s party, had been touted as either a potential successor to Abbott or party deputy under Turnbull.
Seen as one of the best-performing ministers in Abbott’s cabinet, Bishop had said she would vote against the motion but had not ruled out standing if the positions had been declared vacant.
Removing Abbott would have required more than 51 of the 101 members of the federal Liberal Party at the party-room vote.
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