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Liz Truss resigns as U.K. prime minister: What happens next?

U.K. prime minister resigns after 6 weeks
U.K. prime minister resigns after 6 weeks in office 02:20

London — Liz Truss became Britain's shortest-serving prime minister on Thursday, resigning after only 45 days in office. Now, the United Kingdom needs a new leader. What happens next?

In the U.K., prime ministers are not directly elected by the public; they are the leaders of the party that holds the most seats in parliament. General elections — where members of the public go to the poles to elect their parliamentary representatives — can take place at any time, but must be held every five years, at a minimum. They are scheduled by the serving government.

The deadline for the next U.K. general election to take place is January 2025. With Truss' Conservative Party — which currently holds the majority of seats in parliament — polling at historic lows against the opposition Labour Party, they would be extremely reluctant to call an election soon, as they would risk losing their parliamentary majority.

Another way to trigger a general election would be a motion of no confidence in parliament. For that to pass, however, it would need a majority of the members of parliament to vote for it. Given that the Conservatives currently hold the majority of parliamentary seats, that would be highly unlikely.

So, despite allegations from critics that not calling a general election at this point could be seen as undemocratic, Truss' replacement will likely be chosen in the same way Truss herself was when Boris Johnson was forced out only a few months ago: in a Conservative Party leadership contest.

The details of just how that contest will work were laid out later in the day by the officials in charge, Graham Brady and Jake Berry. They said that Conservative members of parliament will have until 2 p.m. local time (9 a.m. Eastern) on Monday to nominate candidates.

For a candidate to progress to the next round of the contest, they will need be backed by at least 100 other Conservative members of parliament. If more than one candidate receives the support of 100 MPs — a maximum of three can mathematically achieve that threshold — the final decision will be made by a vote of the approximately 200,000 registered members of the Conservative Party. If only one person manages to cross that threshold of support, they will become the new party leader and prime minister.

So far, there is no clear frontrunner to replace Truss. There are unconfirmed reports that the former finance minister under Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak — who was the final runner up against Truss in the last Conservative leadership election — will be a contender, as well unconfirmed reports that Johnson himself may be considering stepping back into the race. Another possibility is Penny Mordaunt, a former defense secretary who was second runner up in the last Conservative leadership race.

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