Melbourne, Jun 26: In a dramatic leadership ballot, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard was today ousted by her arch-rival Kevin Rudd as head of the ruling Labor Party, just three months ahead of the country's general elections.
55-year-old Rudd staged the comeback by winning a caucus vote by 57 to 45, three years after Gillard toppled him in a similar showdown to become the first woman prime minister.
Gillard, a strong supporter of Indo-Australia ties who took personal initiative to reverse her party's policy on uranium sale to India, said she would stand by a pledge to quit from politics following the defeat.
51-year-old Gillard confirmed she would not recontest her Victorian seat of Lalor in the forthcoming election. “I will not recontest the federal electorate... at the forthcoming election,” she said.
“Three years ago I had the very great honour of being elected as Labor leader... This privilege was truly humbling,” she said.
Former Prime Minister Rudd, however, did not address media after he exacted revenge and won back his job.
According to reports, Gillard has written to Governor-General Quentin Bryce to ask her to commission Rudd as new Prime Minister.
She also congratulated Rudd on his win, the reports said. The development came ahead of the September 14 general elections, which surveys suggest Labor is set to lose.
It is unclear whether Rudd will stick to Gillard's schedule of the September election or go for an earlier one.
The earliest date Rudd can call an election for is August 3. Ahead of the ballot, Rudd said that tens of thousands of “ordinary Australians” have been asking him to take back the leadership.
Today's leadership test was the third faced by Gillard since she took office in 2010. Rudd himself launched an unsuccessful challenge in early 2012, but was routed 71 votes to 31.
Then in March this year, senior Labor leader Simon Crean made a failed bis to reinstall Rudd who refused to stand and said at the time he would not challenge Gillard “under any circumstances”.
A major reshuffle of the cabinet is expected. Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer Wayne Swan resigned after Rudd's victory and was replaced by Rudd ally and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese in a second ballot.