CANBERRA, Australia (AP) - Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard was ousted as Labor Party leader Wednesday by her predecessor, Kevin Rudd, in a vote of party lawmakers hoping to avoid a huge defeat in upcoming elections.
The ballot took place three years and two days after Gillard ousted Rudd in a similar internal government showdown to become the country's first female prime minister. Wednesday's vote makes Rudd leader of the party, but he is not yet prime minister and may not get the job if lawmakers abandon Labor's ruling coalition.
Party official Chris Hayes said Gillard lost 57 votes to 45.
Rudd will likely have to demonstrate that he can command a majority of lawmakers in the House of Representatives before Governor-General Quentin Bryce makes him prime minister as early as Thursday.
If he cannot, opposition leader Tony Abbott could be asked to form a government, or the elections could be moved up from September to August.
Labor controls 71 seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives, Abbott's coalition holds 72 and the remaining 7 are held by independents or the minor Greens party.
Constitutional lawyer George Williams of the University of New South Wales said it is likely that the government will retain power with the support of independent lawmakers and Rudd as prime minister.
The Sept. 14 election was a Gillard promise. Rudd could call an election as early as Aug. 3.