A week of whiplash in Australian politics -- and it's not over yet

Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull gestures during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra on August 23, 2018.

(CNN)If you've been watching the political shenanigans in Australia's capital with growing incredulity, spare a thought for the Australian voter: the person Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Thursday should be at the center of every politician's focus, and not an afterthought.

If you haven't been watching, a quick recap: a right wing faction within Turnbull's Liberal Party, which governs the country as part of a coalition government with the National Party, tried to seize power earlier this week.
The leadership contest, known as a "spill," came after Turnbull backtracked on an energy bill he wanted to push through parliament but didn't because it would have failed to garner enough support even from within his own party's ranks.
    Turnbull who won the initial leadership contest 48 votes to 35, told the media of his satisfaction over the outcome, and averred that the government would carry on with its primary job, governing.
      That was Tuesday.
      By Wednesday night, all pretense of solidarity his challengers -- chief among them now former Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton -- had shown with Turnbull in the preceding hours was abandoned.
      Thursday, the contest was back on.
        Parliament shut down five hours early as Liberal politicians huddled to count votes and collect numbers. Turnbull emerged later to tell reporters that he'll hold a party vote on Friday if his opponents presented a letter with enough signatures to support his ousting.
        "The public hate what is going on at the moment. They want everyone here to be focused on them," Turnbull said later. "I have done everything I can to keep the Liberal Party and indeed the Coalition united."
        But as he ponders what are likely his final hours as Australia's latest prime minister, he couldn't resist throwing a grenade or two at his party colleagues before shutting the door firmly behind him.

        'Classic, back-to-the-wall' Malcolm

        If Turnbull is going to end his almost three years as Australia's premier on Friday, he's made it clear he won't make it easy for Dutton and those who back the Queensland conservative.
        For starters, there's the possibility that Dutton, an immigration hardliner, might be in breach of the constitution over his financial interests in childcare centers that received millions of dollars in government subsidies.
        The country's solicitor-general was investigating and will provide advice on Friday that could determine whether Dutton, tipped to be the country's new leader by the end of the week, is even eligible to keep his seat in parliament because of the conflict of interest.
        "I cannot underline too much how important it is that anyone who seeks to be Prime Minister of Australia is eligible to be a member of Parliament because a minister, let alone a Prime Minister, who is not eligible to sit in the House is not capable of validly being a minister or exercising any of the powers of a minister," Turnbull said Thursday.
        "This is classic, back-to-the-wall Malcolm Turnbull. Looking for legal loopholes, looking for delaying tactics, and never giving in," wrote Annabel Crabb, a political writer for Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
        Additionally, he has dangled the prospect that the ruling coalition, which governs by a single seat majority in the lower house of parliament, would lose that tiny advantage should the no-confidence vote move ahead on Friday.
        "If the motion is carried, I will treat that as a vote of no confidence and I will not stand as a candidate in the ballot," Turnbull said.
        "I made it very clear that I believe former prime ministers are best out of the parliament and I don't think there's much evidence to suggest that that conclusion is correct. It's not correct."
        That remark was a subtle jab at the man he ousted from the leadership in 2015. Tony Abbott remained in parliament after that putsch, and has been one of the main protagonists in the bid to oust Turnbull.

        Crisis of their own making

        The greatest irony for the federal politicians, who critics argue base policy decisions on popularity polls, is that should Dutton assume the premiership on Friday, he's not likely to keep the job beyond the next election.
        A poll in early August found just 7% of voters from his own ruling Liberal Party wanted Dutton to be their leader. A separate question in the same poll found 41% of national voters preferred Turnbull as Prime Minister.
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