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Rudd Steps Down as Prime Minister of Australia

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/24/world/asia/24australia.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=a1 Rudd Steps Down as Prime Minister of Australia By MERAIAH FOLEY
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 23, 2010
      http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/24/world/asia/24australia.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=a1

      Rudd Steps Down as Prime Minister of Australia
      By MERAIAH FOLEY
      Published: June 23, 2010

      SYDNEY, Australia - Faced with a revolt from within his own governing party, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd stepped down on Thursday morning. Party officials decided to replace him with his deputy, Julia Gillard, who is expected to become the first woman to serve as the nation's prime minister.

      Mr. Rudd, who faced rising opposition from within his own center-left Labor Party, ceded control of the party's leadership to Ms. Gillard in the capital, Canberra. Mr. Rudd, who once enjoyed the highest approval ratings in Australian history, became the shortest serving prime minister in nearly 40 years and one of a handful to be thrown from office before completing one term.

      Ms. Gillard had insisted for months that she was not interested in challenging Mr. Rudd for the leadership. She told reporters that she was “very honored” to be chosen as Australia’s first female prime minister.

      Mr. Rudd swept to power on a surge of goodwill in 2007, and for two years he enjoyed high approval ratings. But public sentiment began to shift sharply in February with Mr. Rudd’s decision to abandon the cap-and-trade energy policy he had made a cornerstone of his agenda. Support for Mr. Rudd continued to wane when he proved unable to gain approval for a controversial mining tax that confused the electorate and angered Australia’s powerful mining industry.

      Nevertheless, the timing of the leadership coup on Thursday surprised many analysts. Despite the plunging support for Mr. Rudd, many people had not expected a serious leadership contest within the party until after the federal election, which must be held by early next year.

      Despite routinely being mocked for her ever-changing hairstyles and a working-class accent, Ms. Gillard is widely viewed as hard-working and a clear communicator. Party leaders hope that she will be more successful at connecting with voters than was Mr. Rudd, who was damaged by several unflattering profiles that painted him as insecure, tantrum-prone and controlling.

      With public support for Mr. Rudd falling, many members of the Labor Party grew increasingly dissatisfied with a leadership style that many found autocratic.

      Although Ms. Gillard was among Mr. Rudd’s small cohort of Cabinet-level advisers — and thus bears significant responsibility for many of the policies that have eroded Labor’s support — she is seen as a softer, more personable alternative to Mr. Rudd.

      Treasurer Wayne Swan, who helped shepherd Australia’s robust economy through the global financial crisis and helped it to be one of the few industrialized countries to escape a recession, was promoted to the post of deputy prime minister.
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