Julia Gillard, Australia's Prime Minister, wins leadership challenge from within own party


Prime Minister Julia Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbot arrive in the Great Hall at Parliament House, Canberra.


Stefan Postles

Julia Gillard, Australia's embattled Prime Minister, stared down a leadership challenge on Thursday, endorsed by her ruling Labor Party unopposed as its leader. 

Gillard will now lead the government until Sept. 14 elections, despite opinion polls showing her as likely to lose in a landslide against conservative opposition leader Tony Abbott.

Before a vote of Labor lawmakers to elect their leader, Gillard's chief rival for the top job, former prime minister Kevin Rudd, said he did not have enough support to replace her.

Rudd, who was himself deposed by Gillard in a 2010 party coup, refused to run for the party leadership at the caucus meeting on Thursday afternoon.

The Fairfax media cited Rudd as saying before the meeting that he would honor his previous pledge not to challenge for the Labor leadership unless he was drafted to the role by a significant majority and the position was vacant:

''Others treat such commitments lightly. I do not... I'm here to inform you that these circumstances do not exist and therefore in the absence of any such draft ... I will be adhering absolutely to the commitment I gave to the Australian people and my parliamentary colleagues."

He added that it had been a ''difficult'' day for the party, adding: ''I take my word seriously.'

Reuters noted that Gillard must now try and "unify a deeply divided party" before trying to then woo an electorate dissatisfied with her government's performance and mostly disapproving of her.

Many Australians have still not forgiven Gillard for the way she became leader — by dumping of Rudd, an elected prime minister.

And despite the years of economic growth under Labor, many voters believe Gillard's economic management is flawed.

TVNZ cited opinion polls as predicting that Labor would lose about 20 seats in the 150-seat parliament in September, giving Abbott's Liberal-led coalition a clear majority. 

Reuters cited political analyst Nick Economou as saying of the Labor Party's election prospects:

"I think they're terminal. There is no way out of this."