Australian Prime Minister Survives Leadership Challenge. For Now.


Australian Prime Minister Survives Leadership Challenge. For Now.SYDNEY, Australia — Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s prime minister, survived a challenge to his leadership Tuesday, narrowly fending off a more conservative rival after growing speculation that he had lost the support of his party.

Mr. Turnbull called for a vote among Liberal Party colleagues in the wake of a failed effort to win support for an energy bill that would aim to reduce both prices and climate emissions. He won the vote over Peter Dutton, the Home Affairs minister, 48 to 35.

“The process of the ballot was as usual and the ballot was conducted in accordance to precedent,” said Nola Marino, the chief government whip. She added that the party room was orderly during the vote and that the prime minister thanked his colleagues for their support.

The victory for Mr. Turnbull may be fleeting. Mr. Dutton, who resigned from his post as Home Affairs minister immediately after the loss, will move to the backbench, where he may still try to rally support for another challenge.

He is aligned with a group of conservatives in Australia’s Liberal Party that includes the former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, whom Mr. Turnbull ousted with his own leadership challenge three years ago. The rancor and frustration in the party ranks have been intensifying for months as polls have continued to show the party and Mr. Turnbull losing favor with voters.

A new election is due anytime between now and next May, heightening pressure for some kind of change that might improve the Liberal Party’s chances, even as Australian voters have previously made clear that they do not welcome the revolving door of leadership that has characterized the past decade of Australian politics.

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The last leader in Australia to serve an entire term without a leadership challenge or call for an early election was John Howard, who left office in 2007.

Some experts said the Liberals seemed unable to grasp the risks that come with party division.

“I honestly think they are so far removed from the people,” said Susan Harris Rimmer, a law professor at Griffith University in Queensland. She added that “most people are just looking for competence.”

Mr. Dutton, a former police officer responsible for Australia’s security and immigration system, is a polarizing figure. With a chaotic ascension to leadership, some analysts said he and the Liberal Party would be trading one challenge in Mr. Turnbull, who is seen as lacking sufficient backbone, for another, who is known for rigidity and a cold, calculating mien.

Jill Sheppard, a lecturer at the Australian National University, was one of many who doubted Mr. Dutton’s chances in a general election.

“That would really give the Liberal Party no chance of winning the election,” she said. “You’d be combining everything that Australians are sick of in Australian politics.”

But Mr. Dutton and his allies seem to believe they are ascendant, first within party ranks and perhaps later with the public. Analysts said his resignation was typical of would-be challengers who do not immediately succeed only to try again.

“He will leverage his failure of his exclusion from the government and try to rally supporters around him,” Dr. Sheppard said.

In an era of President Trump and Brexit, many of his supporters — and even some critics — are hesitant to bet against him.

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