Australian PM Calls Leadership Ballot

Posted February 23rd, 2012 at 6:55 am (UTC-5)
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Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard is calling for her ruling Labor party to vote on its leadership, seeking to resolve an ugly row with her predecessor, former prime minister Kevin Rudd.

Ms. Gillard told reporters Thursday she believed it was in the best interests of her Labor Party and of the country to put an end to speculation that Rudd, who most recently served as foreign minister, was planning an internal party coup.

“I have decided that at 10 a.m. Monday morning a ballot for the Labor leadership will be conducted. Following Kevin Rudd's resignation yesterday I have formed this view that we need a leadership ballot in order to settle this question once and for all.”

Rudd announced his resignation as foreign minister late Tuesday during an official visit to Washington, saying he could not continue without the prime minister's support. He said Ms. Gillard had failed to repudiate calls from her supporters for him to be fired over the speculation about a leadership challenge.

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.