UK governing party votes for new prime minister

LONDON (AA) – Lawmakers in Britain’s governing Conservative Party began voting Tuesday in a leadership election that would also determine the country’s next prime minister.

Five candidates were vying to become leader after David Cameron announced his intention to resign following the U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union last month.

Home Secretary Theresa May is widely regarded as the favorite in the first round of the contest, having secured public declarations of support from more than 100 lawmakers.

But Andrea Leadsom, a relatively unknown energy minister, is expected to perform strongly after securing a high profile endorsement from former London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Leadsom, who campaigned to leave the EU, argued it was important that a pro-Brexit candidate led the country’s exit negotiations with Brussels.

May supported a vote to remain in the EU.

Justice Secretary Michael Gove, Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb and former Defense Secretary Liam Fox are the other contenders in the race.

The candidate with the fewest votes will be eliminated following Tuesday’s first round contest, in which all 330 of the Conservatives’ House of Commons lawmakers will vote.

A result was expected by around 7 p.m. local time (1800 GMT) and a second round of voting was scheduled for Tuesday.

The lawmakers will eventually whittle the candidates down to two, who will then be subject to a ballot of the party membership. The eventual winner will be declared on Sept. 9.

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