PERTH, Australia - Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's government was rocked by the surprise resignation of two of her most senior cabinet ministers on Saturday, just four days after she stunned voters by calling a national election in eight months' time.
Close ally Nicola Roxon quit as Attorney-General along with Chris Evans, who as Senate leader is the third in line to the prime ministership, citing demands of the job and family reasons for their decisions.
Australian media described the resignations as a severe blow for the ruling Labor Party, saying they undermined Gillard's message of stability and a lack of confidence in ability to win a third term on September 14.
Gillard put on a brave face at a news conference in Canberra, saying she had known of the impending resignations for some time.
"We will be able to present the Australian people with a rejuvenated team as we move into the parliamentary year of 2013," a teary Gillard said.