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A Rudd awakening

rhondathompson, [email protected]

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CANBERRA – A surprise revolt forced Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd Wednesday to call a party leadership vote that he will struggle to win – just months away from national elections. It marks a dramatic reversal in fortunes for the wonkish premier and could give the country its first woman leader.Rudd had ridden high in opinion polls as one of the most popular Australian prime ministers of modern times until he made major policy backflips including a decision in April to shelve plans to make Australia’s worst polluters pay for their carbon gas emissions.A leadership change is unlikely to alter Australia’s key policy positions, such as its troop commitment to Afghanistan.However it will determine who heads the ruling Labour Party in elections expected late this year. Despite Australia’s weathering the global downturn, recent polling puts his centre-left government neck-and-neck with the conservative opposition. One poll earlier this month showed Labour trailing the opposition for the first time in more than four years.Rudd called a late-night news conference to announce today’s vote of Labour lawmakers after Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she would challenge him for the leadership.Rudd is due to fly to a summit of Group of 20 major economies in Canada hours after the ballot. It is unclear who will represent Australia if he loses. (AP)