April 7, 2018 / 5:35 AM / 3 months ago

Australia's Turnbull remains voters' preferred PM amid leadership speculation

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australian voters want Malcolm Turnbull to remain prime minister, according to an opinion poll on Saturday, as questions about his leadership gain momentum with his coalition facing possibly the 30th straight loss in a major poll on Monday.

Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games - Opening Ceremony - Carrara Stadium - Gold Coast, Australia - April 4, 2018 Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during the opening ceremony REUTERS/Phil Noble

Losing 30 Newspolls, one of the country’s most respected political polls, would be a symbolic blow for Turnbull since he used that benchmark to justify ousting former conservative leader Tony Abbott in 2015. The next Newspoll is out on April 8.

Three sitting Australian prime ministers have been ousted by their own parties since 2010, dumped by their colleagues almost as soon as their popularity began to wane.

On Saturday, a poll by Fairfax/Ipos in the Australian Financial Review said 62 percent of those surveyed want Turnbull to remain prime minister over Labor leader Bill Shorten. However, Turnbull’s conservative government continues to lag behind in the two-party preferred vote, 48 to 52.

Turnbull declined to comment on the poll.

Senior Liberal party officials have called for Turnbull to remain leader regardless of Monday’s Newspoll.

Former Liberal prime minister John Howard this week warned against toppling Turnbull, saying the Liberal heartland would be “very angry” if the party changed leader again.

Turnbull has struggled for months against a tide of long-running scandals.

The second half of 2017 was dominated by a string of politician resignations amid questions about whether they held dual citizenship, a status which is banned for elected officials in Australia.

The start of 2018 was then consumed by then deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce’s admission that he was expecting a child with a former employee. Joyce stood down in February after media reports he was the subject of an unrelated misconduct complaint.

The next election is due in 2019. Turnbull has ruled out an early poll.

Reporting by Alana Schetzer; Editing by Michael Perry

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