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Conservatives begin selecting next prime minister to replace David Cameron

(Agencies) Updated: 2016-07-05 16:01

Conservatives begin selecting next prime minister to replace David Cameron

Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May attends a press conference in London, Britain, June 30, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

LONDON - Britain's ruling Conservative Party begins selecting a new leader to replace David Cameron as prime minister on Tuesday with interior minister Theresa May and junior minister Andrea Leadsom the leading candidates to get the top job.

Cameron announced he would resign in the political maelstrom that followed when Britons voted on June 23 to leave the European Union despite his exhortations to remain, with his successor due in Downing Street by early September.

The leadership battle inside the Conservative Party has added to uncertainty at a time when Britain is facing the biggest political and economic upheaval since World War Two.

Five candidates have put their names forward and on Tuesday the 331 Conservative lawmakers in parliament will hold their first vote on who should be the next leader. Voting starts at 1000 GMT with the result announced about eight hours later and the candidate with the fewest votes will be eliminated.

The next round of voting will then take place on Thursday and the process will continue until just two candidates remain. The leader will then be elected by about 150,000 Conservative Party members across the country.

Theresa May, a Conservative stalwart who has run the security and law-and-order portfolio in Cameron's cabinet for six years, is the favourite with the bookmakers and to succeed and has the greatest backing among lawmakers.

However, May supported Britain staying in the EU and many Conservatives have argued the next prime minister who will need to negotiate Britain's exit from the bloc after 43 years membership needed to be someone who had supported leaving.

A poll for the ConservativeHome website put support among members for May on 37 percent, with 38 percent backing Leadsom, who was also prominent figure in the Brexit campaign.

Leadsom, 53, who had a 25 year career in financial services before turning to politics but has never served in cabinet, also received a boost on Monday when former London Mayor and leading Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson gave her his backing.

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