Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard called a ballot for the leadership of the governing Labor party for 7 p.m. today, setting up a showdown 2 1/2 months from an election that polls show she will lose in a landslide.
Gillard called on Labor lawmakers to endorse her leadership and said the loser of the ballot should quit parliament at the Sept. 14 election to allow the winner to lead a united party. She called the vote amid media reports that supporters of her predecessor Kevin Rudd had circulated a petition calling for a meeting of the Labor caucus to oust her.
“It’s in the best interests of the nation and in the best interests of the Labor party for this matter to be resolved,” Gillard said in an interview with Sky News. “Anybody who believes that they should be Labor leader should put themselves forward for this ballot. This is it.”
The winner of the vote faces the task of uniting the party and turning around opinion polls that show opposition leader Tony Abbott’s coalition is set to win in a landslide. Labor hasn’t led in polls in more than 18 months and trails the Liberal-National coalition by 14 percentage points as a slowing economy and high currency hurt manufacturing in its heartland.
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