Julia Gillard will step down as Australian Prime Minister, following a successful leadership challenge from her long-time opponent for control of the Australian Labor Party, Kevin Rudd. Gillard is expected to officially tender her resignation to the Governor General later today, and Rudd will lead the party into Australia's general election in September this year.
The election – known in Australian politics as a "spill" – was called by Julia Gillard in an effort to end speculation over whether or not Rudd would challenge her leadership before the election. Events moved with breakneck speed. Gillard confirmed at lunchtime that the ballot would be held at 7pm that evening, and by 5pm, Rudd had announced that he would be a candidate. Crucially, both he and Gillard also promised to quit politics if they lost the ballot, ensuring that whoever won, the decade-long fight between the two for control of the party would be over.
The ballot was won by Rudd 57-45.
In the immediate aftermath, the next question is whether Parliament will withdraw confidence from Rudd's government. That's unlikely to happen, because it's in the interest of all the parties in his coalition to hold on until September; but the Labor party itself has a minority of seats, and so coalition politics will have a part to play in whatever comes next.