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Australians Prime Minister Julia Gillard was ousted from the leadership of her own party today by the very same man she replaced in the job three years ago. Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd assumed the top spot in the ruling Labor Party on Wednesday night local time, after winning a leadership vote by a 57-45 margin. Rudd will now represent the party on the ballot in upcoming elections, but must quickly secure control of Parliament before officially returning to the post of Prime Minister.

Despite controlling the country for the last six years, the Labor Party itself remains divided among two factionsRudd and Gillard were elected as the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister in 2007, but when it looked like Rudd might lose the next general election in 2010, Gillard challenged him for the top spot of the party and he resigned, opening the door for her to become the country's first woman prime minister.

Rudd then challenged her in 2012 and failed, but with another federal election scheduled for this September, there's been growing turmoil over who should be the lead name on the ballot, as neither candidate looks strong enough to win it all.

Despite relative economic success during the global financial crisis, Gillard (and Labor) have seen their poll numbers plumment in recent months, as the constant infighting has made the government appear dysfunctional and out of touch. Gillard has personally taken a lot of public grief in the last year, including being mocked for the knitted kangaroo she made for the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge to the high school students throwing sandwiches at her head.

Adding even greater stakes to today's leadership vote, both Rudd and Gillard vowed that if they lost this showdown, they would leave politics for good. You can never really say "never" when it comes to politics, but Gillard has certainly lost all standing in her party and will have to spend at least some time in the "wilderness" before considering any kind of comeback.

The whole Labor Party might have to do the same as well. Now that Rudd is the victor he may call for new elections sooner than the planned September date, but Liberal Party head and Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott is seen as the overwhelming favorite to be the next PM.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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