Rudd ousts Australian Prime Minister Gillard as Labor leader

Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd emerged victorious Wednesday evening after a special party leadership caucus ousted Prime Minister Julia Gillard as head of the country's Labor Party.

Gillard had called a leadership vote earlier Wednesday amid a challenge by Rudd, whom she ousted in a similar vote in 2010.

The party lawmakers at Parliament House in Canberra voted 57 for Rudd, 45 for Gillard in the special leadership caucus.

Rudd, in an address after his win, said, "In 2007, the Australian people elected me to be their prime minister. That is a task I resume today with humility, with honor and with an important sense of energy and purpose."

He lamented the fractured nature of the current political climate saying, it had not addressed the needs of Australians and "it is holding our country back."

"All this must stop," he added.

He acknowledged Gillard's achievements and "formidable attributes," calling her a woman "of extraordinary intelligence, of great strength and great energy."

Rudd said he knew the public would question why he was returning to the leadership.

"For me it's pretty basic, it's pretty clear. I simply do not have it in my nature to stand idly by and to allow an Abbott government to come to power in this country by default," referring to polls suggesting opposition leader Tony Abbott would win in a landslide over a Gillard-led government.

He also urged young Australians who had switched off politics to "please come back and listen afresh. It's really important that we get you engaged in any way we can. We need you, we need your energy, we need your ideas and we need your enthusiasm and we need you to support us in the great challenges which lie ahead for the country."

Gillard, who had expressed confidence of winning the leadership test, had promised earlier Wednesday she would leave federal politics if she lost.

In an address after her defeat, Gillard congratulated Rudd, adding she had written to Gov. Gen. Quentin Bryce asking for Rudd to be "commissioned as Prime Minister of Australia."

She also affirmed her promise not to contest her seat in the next election, saying she will have time in coming weeks "to say hello and goodbye" to her local constituency.

Gillard thanked her colleagues for their support saying, "They defied political gravity time after time to provide me with more support as leader of the Labor Party when the going got incredibly tough."

"I understand that today the pressure finally got too great for many of our colleagues. I respect that and I respect the decision that they have made," she said while calling on her colleagues to fight to win the upcoming election.

Gillard also raised her gender, a topic that has been the subject of much debate with both parties using gender issues to capitalize on public sentiment.

"The reaction to being the first female does not explain everything about my prime ministership, nor does it explain nothing about my prime ministership....What I am absolutely confident of is it will be easier for the next woman, and the woman after that and the woman after that and I am proud of that," Gillard said.

She had already set the next general election for Sept. 14, but with Rudd taking over the leadership that date could change.

It is also unclear if Rudd will automatically succeed Gillard as prime minister because while the governor general is expected to accept Gillard's request Rudd be appointed, the opposition could force a vote of no confidence and it is possible some of those who supported Gillard, including independent members of Parliament, might not vote for Rudd.