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All eyes on Corbyn as voting in Labour leadership contest closes

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
(From L-R) Jeremy Corbyn, Liz Kendall, Yvette Cooper Andy Burnham.

Voting ends in the hotly contested leadership race for Britain's main opposition Labour party with all eyes now on the result set to be released on Saturday.

The party announced closure of the balloting at mid-day on Thursday. The voting has also closed in the election of Labour's new deputy leader, who will also be unveiled at the leadership conference on Saturday.

The leadership election was held months after the party’s previous leader Ed Miliband resigned in the wake of the May general election debacle. Jeremy Corbyn, Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall filed their nomination to replace Miliband. However, the contest was plagued by internal rows over Labour's direction and concerns that non-party supporters have tried to influence the outcome.

Jeremy Corbyn, front-runner in Labour leadership race (AP photo)

 

The 66-year-old Corbyn’s entry into the leadership race attracted surging grassroots support especially from young metropolitan professionals. Corbyn’s victory seems barely in doubt as most recent opinion polls saw him in lead with 53% support. Corbyn has often put by media at par with European anti-austerity movements like Greece's Syriza and Spain's Podemos.

"He has triumphed because he represents a rejection of conventional politics and also because Labour's mainstream candidates failed to inspire excitement or hope," Andrew Harrop, general secretary of left-wing think-tank the Fabian Society said.

Labour leadership contenders during TV debate

 

Corbyn has never held a front-line political job despite being elected as an MP since 1983. On the floor of parliament, he is known for his opposition to some of the policies of the governments of his own party such as austerity cuts and the 2003 Iraq war.

Since declaring his candidacy, Corbyn has been facing opposition from many current and former party colleagues especially over his policy agenda. Many of them are angered over Corbyn’s promise to scrap Britain's nuclear weapons, re-nationalize some industries such as the railways.


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