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U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announces the date for the country's general election in a rain-soaked speech at Downing Street on May 22, 2024 in London, England. (Peter Nicholls/Getty Images)
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U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced on May 22 that the country will hold a snap general election on July 4.

The prime minister's announcement triggers the dissolution of parliament and the beginning of a six-week campaign to secure a majority (326) of the U.K.'s 650 constituencies. The law required Sunak to hold an election before January 2025.

Sunak's opponent, Labour MP Keir Starmer, currently leads the polls by 20 points and is widely expected to win the July vote.

In a rain-soaked speech at Downing Street, Sunak defended his leadership record, despite trailing in the polls.

"In the last five years our country has fought through the most challenging times since the Second World War," Sunak said, citing the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Sunak presented himself as a safe choice amid uncertain times, and pointed repeatedly to Russian aggression as a source of danger.

"Putin's Russia is waging a brutal war in Ukraine and will not stop there if he succeeds. That war has also made it all too clear the risk to our energy security," he said.

The outcome of the election is not likely to substantially affect U.K. policy toward Ukraine.

Starmer pledged support for Ukraine in a visit in February 2023. The opposition leader met with President Volodymyr Zelensky, visited front-line towns, and promised that the U.K. would remain united in its ongoing commitment to Ukraine's defense.

"Should there be an election next year and a change of government, the position on Ukraine will remain the same," Starmer said.

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