Dean Lewins/Australian Associated Press

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has clung to power on Thursday as senior ministers deserted him, saying he would hold a second leadership vote on Friday only if he received a letter signed by a majority of ruling party members.

Former home affairs minister Peter Dutton narrowly lost a challenge against Turnbull on Tuesday and has declared he would again contest a Liberal party leadership vote, while media reported the treasurer and foreign minister will also be candidates if a vote is called.

Key Turnbull supporter Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said Turnbull no longer had majority party support and Dutton was now the best person to lead the government to the next election, due by May 2019.

Several ministers have tendered their resignations. The leadership crisis saw the government adjourn parliament on Thursday until September.

Turnbull said if he received a letter requesting a fresh vote with the signatures of 43 Liberal Party lawmakers, he would call a party meeting for midday Friday (0200 GMT). If a sc-called leadership spill motion was then passed, he would not stand in the vote.

A leadership spill motion is a vote to declare the leadership of a political party vacant, allowing an open contest.

Australian media reported on Thursday that Treasurer Scott Morrison and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop would contest the top job if the spill motion is passed.

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