SYDNEY: Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard called a Labor leadership ballot for Wednesday amid party-room moves to depose her in favor of arch-rival and predecessor Kevin Rudd, with the loser committing to quit politics.
The vote was set for 9 a.m. local time, amid mounting unease in the party over an expected rout by the Tony Abbott-led conservative opposition at national elections on September 14.
Gillard or Rudd require a majority of the 102-member Labor caucus.
“There are no more opportunities. Tonight is the night and this is it,” Gillard told Sky News. “These issues need to be resolved. Anyone who believes that they should be Labor leader should put themselves forward.”
Rudd confirmed he will challenge, bringing to a head weeks of speculation.
“Many, many MPs have requested me for a long, long time to contest the leadership of the party because the parlous circumstances we now face,” he said
“The truth is, if we’re all being perfectly honest about it right now, is that we’re on course for a catastrophic defeat unless there is change. So today I’m saying to you the people of Australia, I’m seeking to respond to your call that I’ve heard from so many of you to do what I can to prevent Mr. Abbott from becoming prime minister.”
Gillard ruthlessly dispatched Rudd in a 2010 party room coup but he remains popular with the public and is seen by many as Labor’s best hope of salvaging the elections.
Since assuming power, Gillard has endured near-constant speculation about her leadership. She won only the narrowest of victories in the 2010 election, resulting in a hung parliament, which forced her to cobble together a minority government with the support of independents.