Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Move to Oust Australian Premier Fails on Party Vote ; Gillard Keeps Her Post after Her Predecessor Decides Not to Run

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Move to Oust Australian Premier Fails on Party Vote ; Gillard Keeps Her Post after Her Predecessor Decides Not to Run

Article excerpt

Prime Minister Julia Gillard had accepted a public demand for a leadership ballot within her party, but her predecessor, who was expected to run against her, unexpectedly decided not to.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia on Thursday survived an attempt by a senior lawmaker within her own party to oust her from her job, after her predecessor, Kevin Rudd, whom she deposed in a 2010 party coup, unexpectedly declined to run against her.

Ms. Gillard had accepted a public demand for a leadership ballot put forward earlier in the day by Simon Crean, a cabinet minister and former leader of the governing Labor Party. Mr. Crean had said that the party, which has been languishing in the polls for months, could only hope to prevail in September elections by returning Mr. Rudd to office.

But Mr. Rudd declined to seek the leadership, citing an earlier promise not to do so unless he had overwhelming support within the party and the position was vacant. His decision shocked the political and media establishment, which had all but declared Mr. Rudd the winner despite his not having put his hand up for the position, and it raised more questions than it answered about his role in the day's developments.

"This is a difficult day for the Australian Labor party -- a difficult day for the Australian government, but I take my word seriously," Mr. Rudd said just before the vote, explaining why he would not challenge Ms. Gillard. "I've given that word, I gave it solemnly in that room after the last ballot, and I will adhere to that word today."

The vote was held as scheduled, and Ms. Gillard was re-elected unopposed. But the day of high political drama gave rise to serious questions about what impact the spectacle would have on Labor's ailing political fortunes, and on those of the deeply unpopular Ms. Gillard as she pushes ahead with her campaign.

Ms. Gillard, the first woman to become prime minister of Australia, has seen her poll ratings plummet since announcing in January that federal elections would be held in September. The unusually early announcement kicked off an election season that has already been bruising, and the latest move against her from within her own party is unlikely to help her brand.

She has led a tenuous minority government since her parliamentary majority was diminished in a disappointing 2010 election. Although she beat back a leadership challenge from Mr. Rudd early in 2012, she has since slid in the polls against Tony Abbott, the leader of the opposition Liberal-National coalition. Despite Mr. Rudd's insistence that he would not challenge Ms. Gillard again for the leadership, his supporters had been actively canvassing the party for votes should his name be put forward during a ballot like the one held Thursday.

Ms. Gillard is seen by many within the party as an ineffective campaigner who is unlikely to deliver a victory in the Sept. 14 elections. Supporters of Mr. Rudd, like Mr. Crean, had seemed confident earlier in the day.

"Something needs to be done to break this deadlock," Mr. Crean said at a hastily assembled news conference in the capital, Canberra. …

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