Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has won a decisive victory in a leadership ballot with Kevin Rudd, the man she ousted in June 2010. The fight for the country’s most senior political position has been one of the most vicious Australia has ever seen.
Gillard has the overwhelming support of her Labor colleagues in Parliament. After a secret ballot, Gillard triumphed by 71 votes to 31 over Rudd. Tensions between the pair have festered since Gillard replaced Rudd as leader almost two years ago.
The leadership campaign sparked one of the most brutal bouts of infighting the country has ever seen. Gillard loyalists tore into Rudd’s record as leader and claimed he had become a traitor by attempting to sabotage the Labor government.
But following his defeat, Rudd said that his campaign to topple the prime minister had come to an end. He resigned as Australia’s foreign minister last week and will now become a back-bench government lawmaker.
Gillard’s task is to rebuild the public’s faith in her government. Opinion polls have suggested it would be heavily defeated in an election due next year.
In parliament, the conservative opposition leader Tony Abbott taunted the prime minister about the leadership result.
“Given that one third of her parliamentary colleagues and a quarter of her cabinet colleagues have expressed their lack of confidence in her today, how can she claim to have a mandate to continue as prime minister?” asked Abbott.
In response, Gillard said her minority government that relies on a handful of independent and Greens Party lawmakers for support would continue to serve the people.
“As I have just explained to the Australian people, we met this morning and I have the overwhelming support of my colleagues," she said. "As a united team, we will be there providing the government that this nations needs.”
Few analysts expect Gillard to lead Labor into the next election, if the opinion polls continue to look so bleak.
To survive, the prime minister needs to hand down a budget in May that wins voters, and to convince a skeptical public that controversial carbon and mining taxes will not cost jobs and damage the best performing economy in the developed world.