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London: Rishi Sunak will become Britain’s next prime minister after he won the race to lead the Conservative Party, leaving him with the task of steering a deeply divided country through an economic downturn set to leave millions of people poorer.

Sunak, one of the wealthiest politicians in Westminster and set to be the country’s first leader of colour, will be asked to form a government by King Charles, replacing Liz Truss, the outgoing leader who only lasted 44 days in the job before she resigned.

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He defeated centrist politician Penny Mordaunt, who failed to get enough backing from lawmakers to enter the ballot, while his rival, the former prime minister Boris Johnson, withdrew from the contest saying he could no longer unite the party.

“This decision is an historic one and shows, once again, the diversity and talent of our party,” Mordaunt said in a statement as she withdrew from the race just minutes before the winner was due to be announced. “Rishi has my full support.” The pound and British government bond prices jumped briefly on news of Mordaunt’s withdrawal, but soon returned to their previous levels. According to an ITV reporter, the king was returning to London and could accept Truss’s resignation either later on Monday or on Tuesday.

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Sunak, the 42-year-old former finance minister, becomes Britain’s third prime minister in less than two months, tasked with restoring stability to a country reeling from years of political and economic turmoil.

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The multi-millionaire former hedge fund boss will be expected to launch deep spending cuts to try to rebuild Britain’s fiscal reputation, just as the country slides into a recession, dragged down by the surging cost of energy and food.

He will also inherit a political party that has fractured along ideological lines, a challenge that damaged the fortunes of several former Conservative leaders.