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Kevin Rudd To Contest Australian Labor Party Leadership Ballot

Kevin Rudd who resigned as Australia's Foreign Minister announced on Friday that he would challenge Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Monday's Labor Party leadership ballot to seize the right to lead the party as well as the country for a second time.

Rudd was elected Prime Minister in 2007 after defeating the coalition led by his predecessor John Howard in the general elections. But he was toppled from premiership by Gillard in June 2010 in an internal Labor Party coup ahead of the general election that brought the party back to power later that year. He was since appointed Foreign Minister in the Gillard government.

Rudd announced his resignation as Foreign Minister two days ago while on a visit to the United States, saying he believed he no longer enjoyed the support of the Prime Minister.

"Rightly or wrongly, Julia (Gillard) has lost the trust of the Australian people. And starting on Monday I want to start restoring that trust. That is why I've decided to contest the leadership of the Labor Party," Rudd told a press conference in Brisbane, ending days of speculation after his abrupt resignation early on Wednesday.

"I want to finish the job that the Australian people elected me to do when I was elected by them to become Prime Minister," Rudd said, adding that the Labor Party had lots to do to regain the confidence of the Australian people. He also insisted that he was the best person to lead the Labor Party into the next year's general elections.

He called for a "truly secret" ballot on Monday and expressed confidence in winning the leadership ballot. He said: "I will not challenge Julia a second time; I will continue to work for my community."

Gillard, who pledged to "go to the back bench" and "renounce any further ambition for the Labor leadership" if she loses Monday's ballot, claimed on Friday that she had enough support within her party to win the leadership vote and lead the Labor into the next elections.

While announcing the leadership vote a day earlier, Gillard said: "For far too long, we have been squabbling within the Labor Party, which has obscured the government's achievements and what we are doing to build a stronger and fairer Australia. We need a leadership ballot to settle this question once and for all."

Although Australian media had been speculating in recent months about an alleged move by party's senior ranks to replace Gillard with her predecessor, Rudd had earlier downplayed those reports stating that he was satisfied with the post of Foreign Minister.

But Rudd told reporters in Washington DC before returning home that he was "pleased and encouraged by the support" he received from several party members after his resignation. He added that his supporters regard him as "the best prospect to lead the Australian Labor Party successfully to the next elections, to save the Australian Labor Party at those elections, and to save the country from the ravages of an (Opposition leader Tony) Abbott government."

The developments come as the popularity rating of Gillard reached near record low, mostly due to her plans for imposing new carbon and mining taxes as well her policies to deal with the issue of large number of asylum seekers arriving on Australian shores by boat from Indonesia.

Despite the setbacks, Gillard has insisted that she will be the one to lead her party into the 2013 general elections, stressing that Australians would "increasingly see the achievements of the government's agenda."

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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