Liz Truss with Yair Lapid
Liz Truss with Yair LapidStuart Mitchell

Britain’s Conservative Party on Wednesday chose former Treasury chief Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss as the two finalists in an election to replace departing Prime Minister Boris Johnson, The Associated Press reported.

Sunak and Truss came first and second respectively in a secret vote by Conservative lawmakers. Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt came in third and was eliminated.

The race, which has already produced bitter Conservative infighting, pits Sunak, who steered Britain’s economy through the pandemic before quitting Johnson's government this month, against Truss, who has led the UK’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The two will spend the next few weeks campaigning for the votes of about 180,000 Conservative Party members around the country, who will vote by postal or online ballot.

The winner of the party leadership vote will be announced on September 5 and will automatically become Britain's next prime minister.

Johnson announced earlier this month that he will resign as Conservative party leader amid resignations by several of his ministers.

Sunak won all four rounds of elimination votes by lawmakers, but is less popular with the party's grassroots, partly because of his previous job as Britain's chief taxman.

Truss, who has taken a tough line against Russian President Vladimir Putin — and with the European Union — is a favorite of the Conservatives' right-wing.

Truss said if she becomes prime minister “I would hit the ground running from day one, unite the party and govern in line with Conservative values.”

Sunak's campaign said "the choice for members is very simple: who is the best person to beat Labour at the next election? The evidence shows that’s Rishi.”

The winner of the Tory contest will not have to face Britain's general electorate until 2024, unless they choose to call an early general election.