March 21, 2013 - 09:38 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has called a leadership ballot, in a bid to resolve who should lead the Labor party into September's election, according to BBC News.
A number of MPs want Kevin Rudd to take on the leadership. Gillard ousted Rudd, then Prime Minister, in a 2010 ballot.
Opinion polls, however, show he is far more popular with the public than Gillard, who looks set to lose the forthcoming election to the Liberal Party's Tony Abbott. There has been no word yet from Rudd on his intentions.
Gillard's move came after a senior Labor MP called on her to act, saying the leadership issue had to be resolved once and for all because it was "killing" the party.
"I have determined that there will be a ballot for the leadership at 16:30 (05:30 GMT) today. In the meantime, take your best shot," she told parliament.
The deputy party leader role will also be decided at the same time.
A total of 100 lawmakers will take part in the ballot, with 51 votes needed to win.
Rudd did challenge Gillard for the party leadership in February 2012, but lost by 31 votes to 71. In recent weeks, however, local media reports have suggested he was closer to marshalling the numbers needed for victory.
Gillard became Australia's first female prime minister in June 2010, ousting Rudd amid concerns over his environmental and taxation policies.
But many voters were angered by the move and the general election she subsequently called delivered a hung parliament.
Gillard then formed a government that relies on independents for a majority, but public support for her has remained low. Rudd, meanwhile, served as foreign minister in her cabinet until his failed challenge in 2012.
In recent weeks, speculation that his supporters could seek a leadership change ahead of the election had mounted.
A change of leader could bring the polls forward if the support of the independents is removed.
The general election is due to take place on September 14.
The leadership ballot takes place hours after Gillard issued a historic apology to people affected by Australia's forced adoption policy between the 1950s and 1970s. Tens of thousands of babies of unmarried, mostly teenage mothers, were thought to have been taken by the state and given to childless married couples.