British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has called an election as his Conservative Party faces a heavy defeat.

LONDON – British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has called a new election for July 4, mounting a challenge for his ruling Conservative Party to overcome a poor poll if it is to retain 14 years in power against the high-flying opposition Labor Party.

Sunak made the announcement on a rainy Wednesday evening outside the prime minister’s official London home, 10 Downing Street, while touting the “hard-earned economic stability” his government had achieved.

Electoral law in the United Kingdom means that the referendum must be held before January 28 of the following year. Sunak previously said he hoped to call the ballot in the second half of 2024 — and his announcement confirms that will be the case.

Although the prime minister was legally obliged to call an election, the timing was surprising given that victory would be a tall task.

His traditionally centre-right Conservative Party has been in power since 2010 and has dominated post-war politics as a key US ally.

But the past three years have been marked by turmoil and corruption – from Boris Johnson’s premiership to Liz Truss’ clash with global markets – with public discontent over a stagnant economy, crumbling infrastructure and ailing public services.

Five years ago, Johnson sought victory on the back of Brexit, Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, which allowed him to make big gains in previously left-wing post-industrial centres. Brexit is now seen as a failure by most Britons. According to most pollsIts headlines are partly responsible for deep divisions within and beyond the Conservatives.

Things can change quickly in the UK, the change explains, but most polls suggest tomorrow’s vote could hand the Conservatives a historic sweep and Labor a landslide victory. Some senior Conservatives have publicly said there is no point in waiting any longer, with falling polls risking an even bigger defeat for the party.

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The General Election, as it is known here, elects 650 members of the General Assembly. These Members of Parliament or MPs are the primary law makers in England

However, unlike in the US where the president and Congress are elected separately, Sunak and most of his government ministers are all MPs and are thus elected with everyone else on the big night – or not at all.

Sunak, 44, was never voted in as leader by the public, but was instead handpicked locally by his own party to succeed his historically short-lived predecessor, Truss. David Cameron is the country’s sixth Conservative leader since being elected in 2010 and has shifted the party to the right, focusing on immigration and “anti-vigilance” language.

As Labor leader, former lawyer Keir Starmer, 61, will become prime minister unless Sunak can stage a dramatic turnaround.

He took over the party in 2019 after it suffered a crushing defeat under left-wing Jeremy Corbyn. Starmer has polled very well, but has been accused by the left of selling out Labour’s policies and drifting to the right.

Other parties include the Scottish National Party, which currently dominates politics in Scotland but has recently been rocked by internal strife. And the anti-immigration Reform UK Party – founded by Nigel Farage, an ally of former President Donald Trump – is putting pressure on the Conservatives from the right.

Meanwhile, the centrist Liberal Democrats and the environmentalist Greens will hope to improve their very modest vote share by capitalizing on the backlash against Labor over its stance on the Israel-Hamas war.

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