Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd announced yesterday that he would try to grab back leadership of the country in a ruling party ballot on Monday, challenging the current prime minister in a bitter and long-brewing power struggle.
Rudd’s announcement that he would go up against Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in the vote followed weeks of denials that he wanted to return to the top job. Gillard ousted Rudd as prime minister in June 2010 in an internal party coup and the center-left Labor Party scraped through elections later that year to lead a minority government.
“It’s no secret that our government has a lot of work to do if it is to regain the confidence of the Australian people,” Rudd said during a speech in the eastern city of Brisbane. “Starting on Monday, I’m going to start restoring that trust.”
“I want to finish the job the Australian people elected me to do when I was elected by them to become prime minister,” he said.
Rudd resigned as foreign minister during a trip to the US earlier this week, saying he could not continue in his role without the support of the prime minister. Gillard then announced a party leadership election on Monday to try to firm up her position.
Gillard later attacked Rudd on the issue of trust, saying that Rudd has refused to deny accusations that he worked behind the scenes to undermine and destabilize her government.
“The choice that the nation faces and my parliamentary colleagues face on Monday is a choice as to who has got the character, the temperament, the strength to deliver on behalf of the Australian people,” Gillard told reporters.
“This isn’t Celebrity Big Brother; it’s about working out who can lead the nation, who has got the ability to get things done,” she added, referring to a reality TV show.
She said she expected to win “very strong support” among her 103 colleagues in Monday’s ballot and then lead Labor to victory in elections next year.
Rudd supporters have said that even if he lost on Monday, he would simply build support and try again later, but in his speech yesterday, Rudd dismissed the idea of mounting another challenge if this one fails.
“I would go to the backbench and I would not challenge Julia a second time,” he said.