June 4, 2019 / 5:35 PM / 2 months ago

UK Conservative Party agree leadership election rules to reduce numbers

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s governing Conservatives on Tuesday agreed rules for the contest to replace Prime Minister Theresa May as party chief, including measures to eliminate candidates more quickly from a crowded race.

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves at church, as Brexit turmoil continues, near High Wycombe, Britain June 2, 2019. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

May is due to resign as leader of the Conservatives on Friday, but will remain prime minister in a caretaker capacity until a successor is appointed - a process which the party has said should be completed by the end of July.

Whoever takes over will inherit a deadlocked parliament and a polarised nation, with little time to find a way to deliver a deal on Britain’s exit from the European Union before the country is due to leave on Oct. 31.

Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, his successor Jeremy Hunt, former Brexit minister Dominic Raab and environment minister Michael Gove are among the frontrunners in the contest.

The party’s influential 1922 Committee, which represents Conservative lawmakers, said it had agreed that those wanting the job would need the support of eight lawmakers to enter - a higher threshold than in previous contests.

Candidates would then need to win 5% of a vote - or 16 votes - among lawmakers to get through the first round, and then 10% to stay in the contest in the second ballot.

Then, the least popular candidate would be eliminated in successive rounds of voting.

The first ballot of Conservative lawmakers will take place on June 13, the party said, with further ballots scheduled for June 18, 19 and 20.

The final two candidates will then be put to the party’s roughly 160,000 members nationwide in a postal ballot concluding in the week beginning July 22 that will decide Britain’s next prime minister.

The rules provide the party with a way to whittle down the 11 candidates - reduced from 13 on Tuesday when two withdrew - running for the position more quickly.

That would hasten an end to the uncertainty triggered by May’s resignation over her failure to deliver Brexit almost three years after a referendum vote in favour of the move.

Reporting by Elizabeth Piper, William James and Alistair Smout; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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