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Australian Left Coups Its Leadership (Again)

Regularly scheduled parliamentary elections in Australia are set for September.  Or rather, they were until yesterday.

Yesterday, Kevin Rudd, the former Prime Minister before he was removed in an intra-party coup by Julia Gillard in 2010, returned the favor by staging a successful coup against Gillard himself. 

Few believe that a change in leadership will save the Australian Labor Party from eventual defeat against its conservative counterparts, the Liberal Party later this summer.

(Down under, the Liberal Party stands for economic liberalism — small l — otherwise known as the free market.  It is also the more socially conservative party.  Labor is the center-left party and is the actual basis for the British center-left party of the same name.)

Australia’s first female prime minister, Julia Gillard, has been swept from office in an internal party coup. She lost a snap leadership election of her Labor party caucus to Kevin Rudd, the man she ousted as prime minister in a similar vote just three years and two days ago.

Few will mourn Gillard’s departure. A deeply polarizing leftwing figure, she won election by a single parliamentary seat in 2010. She proceeded to break a key campaign promise not to impose a carbon tax after the election. Most recently, she has been seen as ineffectual in stopping a stream of boats bearing migrants seeking asylum from arriving on Australia’s shores. Polls showed her likely to lose in a landslide to Tony Abbott, leader of the Liberal party coalition, in scheduled elections in September.

Rudd will now have to put the broken pieces of the Labor party together quickly. Look for him to call an early election to capitalize on the appearance of change at the head of the Labor party — the earliest date for any election would be August 3. But while he may be able to prevent a Labor-party disaster, analysts still expect him to lose to Abbott. After all, it was his economic mismanagement in 2009 and 2010 that led to his own departure from office after a coup initiated by Gillard. Since then, there are no signs that Rudd or Labor have updated or moderated their economic thinking.

Rudd only gained electoral success in 2007 by being a staunch opposition to the Iraq War.  Since then, the entire country has sputtered economically under Labor rule.

As of right now, Labor has a 71-65 seat (150 seats) lead over the Liberals in the Australian House of Representatives, and a 31-30 seat (76 seats) lead in the Australian Senate.

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