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Gillard calls for leadership vote

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard called for a leadership vote on Thursday (March 21) 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. "For the information of the house I have determined that there will be a ballot for the leadership and the deputy leadership of the Labor arty at 4.30 (0530GMT) today. In the meantime take your best shot," she said. 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 14th general election. If Gillard is replaced as leader, key independents who back her government may withdraw their support, possibly prompting an earlier election. Gillard, Australia's first female prime minister, replaced Rudd in a party coup in June 2010.

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