Rudd-Gillard showdown looming in Australia

It’s been an extraordinary day in Australian politics, where Julia Gillard has called a leadership vote for Monday in the latest showdown of a long-simmering feud with foreign minister and former prime minister Kevin Rudd that has undermined the Labor Party almost since it took over government in 2007.

Rudd, who’s been visiting Washington, DC, resigned as foreign minister today in a press conference outside of Washington’s Willard Hotel, announced he will return immediately to Australia, indicating that he would stand for the leadership against Gillard:

I do not believe that Prime Minister Gillard can lead the Australian Labor Party to success in the next election. That is a deep belief, I believe it’s a belief also shared right across the Australian community…. Their overall argument to me is that they regard me as the best prospect to lead the Australian Labor Party successfully to the next elections, to save the Australian Labor Party and those next elections and to save the country from the ravages of an Abbott government.

One commentator said earlier today that the feud has left them both “screwed” — Rudd unable to win the leadership and Gillard unable to win the next election.
Meanwhile, Labor voices are already coming out loudly and strongly — mostly against Rudd.
Treasurer Wayne Swan attacked Rudd yesterday in harsh terms, calling his tenure as prime minister increasingly erratic, and accused him of trying to undermine Gillard’s government:
For too long, Kevin Rudd has been putting his own self-interest ahead of the interests of the broader labour movement and the country as a whole, and that needs to stop.  He sought to tear down the 2010 campaign, deliberately risking an Abbott prime ministership, and now he undermines the government at every turn.
Rudd became the Labor Party leader in December 2006, with Gillard elected deputy Labor Party leader at the same time.  Rudd thereupon swept into power in the November 2007 federal election with 83 seats in Australia’s House of Representatives on 52.7% of the vote to the Liberal/National Coalition’s 65 seats and 47.30% of the vote. The election ended the 11-year rule of longtime Australian leader John Howard.
Doubts about his leadership surfaced as his approval ratings plummeted from the mid-60% range as late as 2009 to the mid-30% range by May 2010.  With much of the world entering its second year of global economic slowdown, Australia’s economy was surviving on the strength of trade with China and other Pacific neighbors. Nonetheless, Rudd was trapped in a losing battle over a super profits tax on mining while his signature initiative from the 2007 campaign for a carbon tax scheme languished. A devastating profile by David Marr in Australia’s Quarterly Essay added further doubts about Rudd — not only his leadership style, but even his psychological steadiness:
Face to face, it’s so clear. Rudd is driven by anger. It’s the juice in the machine. He is a hard man to read because the anger is hidden by a public face, a diplomat’s face. Who is the real Kevin Rudd? He is the man you see when the anger vents. He’s a politician with rage at his core, impatient rage.

Against this background, Gillard announced her intention to run for the leadership; it became clear that Rudd would not have the support to defeat Gillard and, accordingly, he stepped down as Prime Minister on June 24, 2010.

Gillard called a snap election to solidify her mandate as Labor leader, but doubts about the ability of the Labor party to govern itself (let alone Australia) and the ongoing unpopularity of Labor over asylum, the economy, the mining tax and the carbon trading policy plagued Gillard’s campaign. Gillard was also troubled by a truculent Rudd, who spent most of the campaign recovering from gull bladder surgery and then, campaigning locally for reelection in his local state of Queensland.  Labor won reelection very narrowly with 50.12% of the vote against 49.88% for the resurgent Coalition under new leader Tony Abbott. Gillard remained Prime Minister only with support from among six independent MPs.

Gillard appointed Rudd as foreign minister after the election, but the ongoing tension between Rudd and Gillard has been a constant feature of commentary throughout the Gillard era.
Current polls show that Abbott remains slightly favored among voters to be prime minister in the next election and the two-party preferred vote (once votes from the lesser-polling parties are transferred to the two highest parties) showed the Coalition with a 55%-45% lead over Labor.
UPDATE: Charges and countercharges have swirled between the two camps for weeks, but hit a fevered pitch last week, when the following footage of Rudd swearing was released anonymously to YouTube:

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