Abbott defrocked: Aussie PM ousted in leadership vote by longtime rival

Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott. © Edgar Su
Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s freshly-resigned Communications Minister, has toppled Tony Abbott in Liberal leadership ballot and is now the country's prime minister-designate.

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Turnbull, Abbott’s long-term rival, has won a secret party room vote by 54 to 44, announced by Liberal Party Whip Scott Buchholz.

Tonight there were two ballots conducted; one ballot for leader, one ballot for deputy leader,” Buchholz said. For the leadership, “Malcolm Turnbull was successful on 54, Tony Abbott on 44 and one was informal.”

Julie Bishop retained her role as deputy with a margin of 70-30 over challenger Kevin Andrews, having earlier declared her support for Turnbull as leader.

Earlier on Monday, Turnbull, while resigning from the cabinet, asked Abbott to step down, declaring a challenge to Abbott for the Liberal party leadership, and therefore leadership of the country.

“A little while ago I met with the prime minister and advised him that I would be challenging him for the leadership of the Liberal party,” Turnbull told reporters before the vote. “This is not a decision that anyone could take lightly.”

Turnbull said that Abbott“has not been capable of providing the economic leadership,”and he“has not been capable of providing the economic confidence that business needs.”

Turnbull is yet to be sworn as new Australian Prime Minister. The country will be getting its fifth PM in eight years.

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Earlier in the day, Abbott dismissed speculation about his position as leader at a media event in South Australia.

"I just am not going to get caught up in Canberra gossip, I'm not going to play Canberra games," Abbott said. "I'm just not going to chase all of these rabbits down all of the burrows that you are inviting me to go down, I'm just not going to play the Canberra games.”

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Turnbull, 60, led the Liberal Party until 2009, when he was defeated in a leadership vote by Abbott.

Abbott has called in his supporters for a meeting in a Liberal party room in the parliament building, Australian media reports. 

Abbott's Liberal Party-led coalition has a total oif 90 MPs in the 150-member House of Representatives, including 58 members of the Liberal Party. According to the Australian constitution, the next federal election for the House of Representatives, the main legislative chamber of parliament, must be held by January 14, 2017 at the latest.