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Rudd challenges Gillard for PM job

Australia's former foreign minister Kevin Rudd has announced that he will challenge prime minister Julia Gillard for leadership of the Labour Party and the country.

Ms Gillard is planning a leadership ballot for Monday, with the vote by party parliamentarians an effort by the prime minister to stop a power struggle that has been brewing for weeks.

Ms Gillard ousted Mr Rudd as prime minister in June 2010 in an internal party coup, and their centre-left Labour Party scraped through elections later that year to lead a minority government.

"It's no secret that our government has a lot of work to do if it is to regain the confidence of the Australian people," Mr Rudd said. "Starting on Monday, I'm going to start restoring that trust."

Mr Rudd resigned as foreign minister during a trip to the US earlier this week, saying he could not continue in his role without the support of the prime minister. "I want to finish the job the Australian people elected me to do when I was elected by them to become prime minister," he said.

The government could fall if Mr Rudd wins because Labour's single-seat majority in the House of Representatives depends on a coalition with two independent politicians and one from the Greens party. Early elections would be held if neither Labour nor the conservative opposition coalition can muster a majority.

Ms Gillard has said she will abandon her leadership ambitions if Labour chooses Mr Rudd over her, and she called on Mr Rudd to do the same if he loses.

Analysts expect that Ms Gillard has enough support to remain in power for now, but she and her government are unpopular among voters. And Rudd supporters said that even if he lost, he would simply build support and try again later.

Ms Gillard later attacked Mr Rudd on the issue of trust, noting that Mr Rudd has refused to deny accusations that he actively worked behind the scenes to undermine and destabilise her government.

"The choice that the nation faces and my parliamentary colleagues face on Monday is a choice as to who has got the character, the temperament, the strength to deliver on behalf of the Australian people," Ms Gillard told reporters. She said she expected to win "very strong support" among her 103 colleagues in the ballot and lead Labour to victory at elections next year.


From Belfast Telegraph