Australian PM Tony Abbott ousted by chief rival Malcolm Turnbull
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Australian PM Tony Abbott ousted by chief rival Malcolm Turnbull

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s beleaguered prime minister has been ousted from his position by an internal government challenge and the party’s former leader has been elected to replace him.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott lost a leadership ballot by members of his conservative party on Monday following the second challenge to his position this year.

The change in leadership comes as the 2-year-old conservative coalition government struggles in opinion polls.

Liberal Party whip Scott Buchholz told reporters that lawmakers voted 54 to 44 to replace Abbott with his chief rival, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

The vote continues an extraordinarily volatile period in Australian politics. Turnbull becomes Australia’s fourth prime minister in just over two years.

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Tony Abbott was ousted in an internal party vote Monday. Pic: AP.

Abbott defeated Turnbull as party leader in a ballot of lawmakers in 2009 by one vote when the party was in opposition.

He survived a leadership challenge in February when he asked colleagues for six months to turn the polls around. Today’s leadership challenge came amid dismal performances by the Liberal Party in recent opinion polls.

Turnbull disagrees with Abbott on climate change and wants Australia to replace the British monarch with an Australian president as head of state.