Rishi Sunak Makes History as U.K.'s First British Asian Prime Minister

Rishi Sunak
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oris Johnson pulled out of the race on Sunday night.

Rishi Sunak will be the next prime minister of the United Kingdom, following current premier Liz Truss' announcement last week that she will step down. Sunak was able to secure the backing of more than 100 Conservative Party lawmakers, cementing his leadership of the party and therefore, eventually, the country. The former U.K. treasury chief will be the country's first-ever British Asian prime minister. 

His competitor, Penny Mordaunt, dropped out of the race just ahead of the 2 p.m. Monday deadline to secure the necessary number of backers, and Boris Johnson pulled out of the race on Sunday night.

The U.K.'s prime ministers are not chosen directly through general elections. They are typically the leaders of the parties that hold the most seats in parliament. When Truss stepped down last week as leader of the Conservative Party and thus as prime minister, the party began the process of selecting a new leader and, as it holds a majority in parliament, that process was also to determine who would serve as the new prime minister.

While being chosen by his party cements Sunak's looming tenure as premier, he will only become the prime minister once Truss formally submits her resignation to King Charles III, and the monarch then formally asks Sunak to form a new government. That is expected to happen in the coming days, possibly as soon as Tuesday.

Many Conservative members of parliament — and many Brits in general — will be hoping that Sunak's economic experience as treasury secretary [called the Chancellor of the Exchequer in Britain] under Johnson will help stabilize a falling pound and skyrocketing inflation and interest rates. Sunak was a vocal critic of the tax-cut-focused economic plan put in place under Truss just several weeks ago, which sent shockwaves through international markets and eroded investors' confidence in the U.K. 

Virtually all of that plan was immediately scrapped by the current treasury chief, whom Truss brought in after firing the man she initially brought in as chancellor, but global confidence in Britain's economic stability has yet to recover. 

Under U.K. law, there must be another general election by January 2025. The government — which is still led by the same Conservative Party that has been in power for more than a decade — is tasked with scheduling the next public vote, and it can do that at any point before the deadline. 

But with the third prime minister set to take the reigns in the space of only two months, due entirely to convulsions within the Conservative Party, the "Tories," as the Conservatives are also known, are polling at historic lows against the opposition Labour Party. So, the new government will be extremely reluctant to call an election soon, as they would risk losing their parliamentary majority.

This story was originally published by CBS News on Oct. 24, 2022 at 9:48 a.m. ET.