Australia's Gillard keeps Labor Party leadership
Feb 27, 2012, 0:13 GMT
Australian prime minister Julia Gillard leaves a press conference in Canberra, Australia, 27 February 2012. Ms Gillard defeated former prime minister and ex foreign minister Kevin Rudd for the leadership of the Australian Labor party (ALP) 73-31 at a caucus meeting today. EPA/ALAN PORRITT
Sydney - Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard claimed a mandate to lead the Labor Party at next year's election after easily beating Kevin Rudd in a caucus ballot Monday.
Gillard, Rudd's deputy when she deposed him in June 2010, won 71 of the 102 votes cast.
Rudd, who resigned as foreign minister last week, pledged not to challenge her again and vowed to make 'every effort into securing Julia Gillard's re-election as Labor prime minister at the next election.'
Rudd was emboldened to take on Gillard by her dismal showing in opinion polls, telling colleagues that sticking with her would inevitably lose them government next year.
Three separate opinion polls at the weekend showed Rudd, 54, way ahead of Gillard.
Gillard claimed the emphatic win rolled down the curtain on leadership speculation.
'Australians have had a gutful of seeing us focus on ourselves,' she said. 'I can assure you that this political drama is over.'
In her pitch for caucus votes, Gillard had said Rudd was a popular politician but so difficult to work with as a prime minister that he had to be got rid of.
'Talking is easy but getting things done is harder,' Gillard said. 'I'm the person who gets things done.'
Gillard, 50, brought on the caucus vote to smoke out a challenge from Rudd and end months of infighting.
Labor Party luminary Peter Beattie said he expected a further tilt from Rudd.
'Most believe he will simply wait to be drafted for another challenge later in the year if the government doesn't improve in the opinion polls,' Beattie said in a column in The Australian newspaper.
Opposition Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott also expected a further challenge, noting that almost a third of the caucus and a quarter of her cabinet had voted against Gillard in the leadership hustings.
'What I think today is likely to be is not so much a new start for this prime minister but merely a stay of execution,' he said.
Gillard, who won the slimmest of victories over Abbott in a parliamentary election in August 2010, governs with the help of the Greens and independents.
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