Australian PM Gillard calls leadership vote

March 21, 2013 06:15

CANBERRA - Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard called a leadership vote on Thursday after party rivals urged her to step aside and for former leader Kevin Rudd to head the minority government, in an attempt to stave off election defeat.

Gillard's leadership has been under threat for most of the past two years as voters desert the Labor government, leaving it facing defeat in a September 14 general election.However, if Gillard is replaced as leader, key independents who back her government may withdraw their support, possibly prompting an earlier election.

Gillard announced the leadership vote, scheduled for 4.30 p.m. (0530 GMT), during parliament's question time, shortly after a senior minister called for her to step aside for a leadership ballot.

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