The Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, put her job on the line yesterday, announcing a leadership ballot in hopes of quashing a comeback by Kevin Rudd, the colleague she ousted in a Labor Party coup nearly two years ago.
The vote by party lawmakers, scheduled for Monday, is an effort by Ms Gillard to triumph in a power struggle that spilled onto the world stage on Wednesday when Mr Rudd resigned as foreign minister during an official trip to the US. The fight could lead to the collapse of the government and early elections.
In Washington, Mr Rudd would not say whether he will challenge Ms Gillard in the leadership ballot, telling reporters on Wednesday night he would announce that decision when he returns to Australia today. But he said he believes the Labor Party will lose national elections scheduled for next year if Ms Gillard remains its leader.
Ms Gillard said she will abandon her leadership ambitions if Labor politicians choose Mr Rudd over her on Monday, and she called on Mr Rudd to do the same if he loses.
"We need a leadership ballot to settle this question once and for all," she told reporters in Canberra.
Analysts expect that Ms Gillard has enough support in the House of Representatives to remain in power for now, but she and her government are unpopular among voters. And Mr Rudd supporters said that even if he were to lose on Monday, he would simply build support and try again later.
A Rudd supporter, Senator Doug Cameron, said a Monday poll would be unfair because Mr Rudd would not have time to canvass support.
"It's clear that some senior ministers are intent on putting a stake through Kevin Rudd's heart and I don't think that's justified," Cameron told ABC television.