A preselection race of the Liberal Party that has attracted the last-minute influence of New York and Canberra will be decided at a Sydney rugby union club.
The Liberal Party will pre-select its candidate for the blue ribbon seat at Wentworth on Thursday night, just a few days after the male candidate withdrew to make way for a woman.
It is understood that Andrew Bragg, who was considered the favorite to succeed Malcolm Turnbull in the harbor-side seat, withdrew under the increasing pressure of Canberra and in exchange for a safe place in the Senate.
Dozens of party faithful entered the Eastern Suburbs of the Rugby Union Club in Rose Bay on Thursday to decide who will participate in the by-elections, which according to some polls could reach the limit.
The former Liberal staff member and Deputy Mayor of Woollahra, Katherine O & Regan, has become the favorite to be shortlisted in the absence of Mr. Bragg.
It is understood that it has the support of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and other powerful power brokers of Canberra.
Former Australian ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, is also in the mix, but has also been pressured by Canberra to withdraw and give way to a candidate.
However, it is believed that Mr. Sharma won the support of Mr. Turnbull and former Prime Minister John Howard, reports Fairfax.
Mr. Turnbull allegedly called Mr. Sharma from New York, urging him to remain in the race amid mounting pressure to rescue.
It is also expected that Woollahra Councilwoman Mary-Lou Jarvis will receive more votes than others in a field that includes former Wentworth member Peter King and campaign director Carrington Brigham.
There are eight candidates in total.
The independent candidate for Wentworth, Licia Heath, says that some voters would be skeptical of the real reasons behind the liberals promoting a woman in the seat.
"(Voters) say they were not going to do it five days ago, now they do it by numbers, not because they suddenly believe in all the benefits a woman can bring," Heath told AAP. .
Morrison said the presidents had a very important job, given the "very difficult" circumstances surrounding the by-elections.
"I think this will be a very close fight," he told reporters on Thursday.
"The former prime minister had no doubts about the difficulty of the competitions at Longman, Braddon and Mayo and, similarly, I have no expectations about the results (at Wentworth)."
The partial elections will take place on October 20.
There are fears within the Liberal party that a high-profile independent could shake things up, with gay marriage activist and Sydney city councilor Kerryn Phelps still considering an inclination.
Labor selected the businessman and president of Surf Rescue of Tamarama, Tim Murray, to occupy the seat, which has never been in the hands of any other party than the Liberals.