LONDON (AP) — Britain’s ruling Conservative Party said Wednesday it has delayed sending out ballots for the party’s leadership election after British intelligence agencies warned of the risk of fraud.
Ballots were due to be mailed earlier this week to about 180,000 party members, choosing a new leader for the party and the country.
The party said it had decided to “enhance security” in line with advice from the National Cyber Security Centre, part of Britain’s GCHQ cyber spy agency.
The party had intended to allow members to vote electronically or by postal ballot, with the option to change the vote until the polls closed on September 2. It now says each member will receive a unique code that allows one, unchanging vote, either online or by mail.
He said members should receive their ballots by August 11.
The National Cyber Security Center said it had “provided advice to the Conservative Party on security issues for online leadership voting”, but did not provide details of the advice. The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that the changes were made in response to concerns about the vulnerability of the voting process to hackers, and not because of a specific threat from a group or state.
Tory MPs are choosing between Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and former finance minister Rishi Sunak to replace Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who resigned as party leader in July after months of ethics scandals.
The winner will be announced on September 5 and will automatically become prime minister. The new leader will not have to face voters until the next general election, which will be held in 2024.
Sunak’s supporters hope the delay will give him time to close the gap on front-runner Truss, who is leading in party member polls and has won the support of several high-profile cabinet ministers.
Sunak is running as an experienced minister who can guide the country through the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. He accuses Truss of giving “fairy tales” with her promise to cut taxes within weeks of taking office. Sunak argues that it is vital to get inflation under control first
But he faces a backlash from some Conservatives over his resignation from Johnson’s cabinet last month as the government falters amid ethics scandals. More than 50 cabinet ministers resigned, leaving Johnson with no choice but to resign.
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