Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Ouster Is Ousted: Australia's PM Gillard Finds Herself without a Job

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Ouster Is Ousted: Australia's PM Gillard Finds Herself without a Job

Article excerpt

In a political comeback of Shakespearean proportions, Australia's first female prime minister, Julia Gillard, was replaced on Wednesday night by the very same man that she stole the top job from almost three years ago to the day.

The leadership coup, which is set to see Australia's former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd reinstated, played out in less than a day and follows devastating polling for Gillard's government in the leadup to a September election.

In what is already being dubbed "one of the great political comebacks in Australian history," Mr. Rudd reclaimed the prime ministership from his former deputy in a party room vote on Wednesday evening, 57 votes to 45. He will be sworn in as the new prime minister tomorrow.

Ms. Gillard ousted Rudd as PM and leader of the nation's center- left party, the ruling Australian Labor Party (ALP), in mid-2010, after the once-unassailable leader fell out of favor with his party due to mining disputes and climate change policy.

Two months later, Gillard scraped the ALP into another term by forming a minority government with several key independent powerbrokers. But she then found her reign dogged by the man she deposed.

While Rudd served as foreign minister, he unsuccessfully recontested the prime ministership in early 2012. When he didn't win, he resigned to the backbench amid calls from both sides that he was intentionally destabilizing the ALP.

"I promise you this: There is no way, no way, that I will ever be part of a stealth attack on a sitting prime minister elected by the people. We all know that what happened then was wrong, and it must never happen again," said Rudd at the time.

Drama in Australia

Australian voters - who have increasingly turned their favor toward the conservative Liberal Party - were rocked by a second unsuccessful leadership disruption from Rudd's backers earlier this year.

The nation's media had been speculating about a third attempt at a coup from the Rudd camp for several weeks. In response, Gillard called a Labor leadership ballot on Wednesday evening with only a few hours' notice.

Rudd's chances looked murky until just 30 minutes before the fateful ballot, when Gillard's long-term backer, Bill Shorten, announced that he had switched his support from Gillard to Rudd.

Eva Cox, an Australian political commentator and feminist, says that the ALP, worried about retaining power in the upcoming elections, ultimately chose Rudd for the leadership because it needed "somebody who could communicate" to the disillusioned electorate.

"They were not getting through to the electorate and the polls were looking dismal [in lead up to the September election]. They had a candidate sitting there who could communicate," says Ms. Cox.

"The back benches, including Bill Shorten, did a count and said to themselves: 'If we keep going down this track than we are just going to lose control'," she says, adding that the Gillard government just "didn't excite" voters. …

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