LONDON, June 23 (AFP): Voters head to the polls on Thursday in two closely watched UK by-elections that risk renewing pressure on beleaguered Prime Minister Boris Johnson following months of scandals and setbacks.
His ruling Conservatives are tipped to lose both contests, for the parliamentary seats of Tiverton and Honiton in southwest England and Wakefield in the north, after both Tory MPs resigned in disgrace.
Tiverton and Honiton's MP Neil Parish quit after admitting watching pornography on his phone in the House of Commons, while Wakefield's Imran Ahmad Khan was jailed for sexually assaulting a teenage boy.
The votes come just weeks after Johnson narrowly survived an attempt by his own lawmakers to oust him as party leader and prime minister.
The June 6 vote among Conservative MPs saw more than 40 percent of the parliamentary party desert him, leaving him severely weakened and struggling to reset his turbulent tenure in power.
Johnson has spent months fighting for his survival after a series of controversies including the "Partygate" saga led many Tories to question whether he should remain as leader.
Various opinion polls have shown the public think he lied about Covid lockdown-breaking events at Downing Street and should resign.
Even before the controversy erupted last December, the 58-year-old Brexit architect saw the loss of two once-safe seats in by-elections last year.
He then scored dismally in May's local elections.
Defeat in the true blue Tory heartland of Tiverton and Honiton, and in Wakefield, which Johnson snatched in 2019 from the main opposition Labour party for the first time since the 1930s, could see his position challenged again.
Parish, who described his actions as an indefensible moment of "total madness", won a more than 24,000 majority in Tiverton and Honiton in 2019.
There, the small opposition Liberal Democrats are hopeful of picking up the seat in rural Devon after overturning similarly large majorities in two other historically safe Tory seats in 2021.
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