CANBERRA, Australia — Beleaguered Prime Minister Tony Abbott survived an internal government challenge to his leadership on Monday, despite a revolt by dozens of colleagues that leaves him politically damaged.

A meeting of lawmakers in the ruling conservative Liberal Party voted 61 to 39 to reject a motion that called for a ballot for party leader and deputy, party whip Philip Ruddock reported after the brief meeting.

Abbott needed a stronger show of support from his colleagues to ward off potential future challenges if the government continues to endure sagging approval ratings in opinion polls.

But he said later that he should stay in charge of the government until voters decide his fate in elections next year.

“We want to end the disunity and the uncertainty which destroyed two Labor governments and give you the good government that you deserve,” Abbott said in a video statement, referring to the center-left Labor Party that dumped prime ministers in similar internal struggles in 2010 and 2013.

“We think that when you elect a government, when you elect a prime minister, you deserve to keep that government and that prime minister until you have a chance to change your mind,” he added.

The challenge showed that 39 of 102 Liberal lawmakers wanted a change at the helm.

It came halfway through Abbott’s first three-year term as prime minister. His party has never dumped a first-term prime minister.

The challenge to Abbott’s leadership – a “spill motion” that declares the party leadership open to any candidates in a ballot – was triggered by disgruntled government lawmakers last week and was to be discussed Tuesday at the year’s first scheduled Liberal Party meeting.

But Abbott on Sunday arranged a special meeting for Monday morning, leaving some lawmakers scrambling to book earlier flights to Canberra, and giving his opponents less time to garner support to topple him.

The internal tussle came as an opinion poll published in The Australian newspaper on Monday showed that Abbott’s popularity had reached its lowest point in his five years as party leader.