Australian PM Calls Leadership Ballot

Posted February 22nd, 2012 at 8:00 pm (UTC-5)
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Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Thursday called for her ruling Labor party to vote on its leadership, ending an ugly row with her predecessor and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd.

Ms. Gillard said the special vote would be held Monday morning and that she expects her colleagues to endorse her to remain as prime minister.

The move came a day after Rudd announced his resignation during an official visit to Washington amid speculation he would try to oust Ms. Gillard. Her supporters have called for Rudd to be fired in response. Rudd complained that Ms. Gillard has failed to repudiate those demands.

“The simple truth is I cannot continue to serve as foreign minister if I do not have Prime Minister Gillard's support. I therefore believe the only honourable thing, and the only honorable course of action, is for me to resign.”

Rudd has made no public pronouncements about his political ambitions, saying only he will decide his future after he returns to Australia.

The ill feeling between the two goes back to 2010 when Ms. Gillard toppled Rudd when he was prime minister. It was a political humiliation for Rudd, who was eventually appointed foreign minister.

Following Rudd's ouster, Ms. Gillard led the Labor Party into elections in which it barely squeaked back into power with the support of a handful of independent members of parliament.

Recent polls have shown the Labor Party trailing far behind the opposition Liberal Party, but show Labor would perform better with Rudd as its leader.

Ms. Gillard insists she has the support of her parliamentary caucus and has expressed confidence she would survive any attempt at an internal coup.

Australia next national elections are scheduled for 2013.