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Australia's PM retains Labor Party leadership
Prime Minister Julia Gillard convincingly defeats Labor Party rival Kevin Rudd in a leadership challenge.
Last Modified: 27 Feb 2012 02:53

Kevin Rudd was ousted as leader and Prime Minister by Julia Gillard in 2010 [GALLO/GETTY]

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has emphatically won a leadership vote by the ruling Labor Party over her rival and former premier Kevin Rudd, Australian media reported.

Gillard won with 71 votes to 31 for Rudd, but now faces a mammoth task to rebuild support for her divided and unpopular minority government.

The result emerged just under an hour after the vote began in Canberra on Monday.

A cabinet reshuffle is now expected to fill Mr Rudd's position as foreign minister, from which he resigned last week.

Gillard called the vote to stamp her authority on the party and stop Rudd's push to regain the leadership after his sudden resignation as foreign minister last week.

That move followed weeks of mounting infighting between the two camps.

Al Jazeera's Andrew Thomas reporting from Canberra says: "This is a humiliating defeat for Kevin Rudd".

"The task for Julia Gillard is to build up a force for the Labor Party for the next general election," said our reporter.

Gaining popularity

Rudd's supporters earlier put Gillard on notice that whatever the leadership result, she must lift the government's standing in opinion polls or she could still be dumped as prime minister before the next election.

The leadership vote has exposed deep divisions within the unpopular government, which opinion polls show would lose an election by a landslide.

Gillard, languishing in public opinion polls, now faces a tough task to lift support for Labor and its minority government
ahead of general elections scheduled for late 2013

Rudd, ousted as prime minister in a shock June 2010 party-room coup, faced Gillard in a secret Labor ballot for the leadership after dramatically resigning as foreign minister in a bid for the top job.

Rudd came to power in a 2007 election landslide which ended more than a decade of conservative rule, but a series of policy mis-steps saw him lose the confidence of party chiefs and he was axed for the more pragmatic Gillard.

While Rudd did not have the support of his parliamentary colleagues, he has consistently polled above Gillard as
preferred prime minister, and has said he was the only leader capable of turning around the government's poor polling.

Before the vote, Rudd said he would return to the government backbench and would not challenge Gillard a second time before the next election.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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