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Australian prime minister keeps job in internal party showdown

February 27, 2012 | 12:56 am

Australian Prime Minister kept her job by thrashing challenger Kevin Rudd in a internal Labor party vote
REPORTING FROM SEOUL -- Settling a political struggle many called the most vitriolic in the history of Australian politics, Prime Minister Julia Gillard kept her job by winning a Labor Party vote Monday against Kevin Rudd, the colleague she deposed in a 2010 party coup.

Gillard called her 71-31 victory among party lawmakers "overwhelming" after months of "ugly" infighting within party ranks.

"Today I want to say to Australians one and all: This issue, the leadership question, is now determined," she said. "I can assure you that this political drama is over."

Yet many maintain that the party remains deeply divided, and some embittered Rudd supporters threatened to press for Gillard's ouster. At least five members of Gillard's Cabinet backed her challenger in the vote.

In recent days, Rudd had warned that Gillard would lead the Labor Party to certain defeat at elections next year. But following his defeat Monday, he called on party members to unite behind Gillard.

"I bear no one any malice, and if I've done wrong to anyone with what I've said and what I've done, I apologize," he told reporters, saying it was time that "wounds were healed" within the party.

Various opinion polls showed that Rudd was more popular than Gillard among rank-and-file voters, but many lawmakers were dissatisfied with his performance as prime minister.

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-- John M. Glionna

Photo: Julia Gillard, Australia's prime minister, speaks during a news conference at Parliament House in Canberra. Credit: Mark Graham / Bloomberg

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