Politics Beyond Borders

As I was drinking my morning coffee yesterday and today, I turned on the television to breaking news in Australia: Labor Leadership Showdown [enter dramatics!]

Ah, politics – I think I will sit down, watch, and listen.

Just for background: Australian Labor Party Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, was preparing to hold a press conference yesterday morning to announce that she will hold Labor leadership elections this coming Monday. The night before, former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd resigned from the government as foreign minister and was preparing to announce a challenge to Gillard for the party leadership. The two have been rivals for years. As Gillard prepared to go to the airwaves to make her announcement, Rudd one-ups her by holding a press conference from Washington, DC to preempt her message (turns out he didn’t say much other than lay the ground work for his challenge, but strategically said he would make that announcement when back in Australia). After his press conference from Washington, Gillard took to the podium to announce leadership elections Monday at 10am in Canberra (while also making her case).

Australia’s Daily Telegraph is reporting that Kevin Rudd will make a decision later today now that he is back in the country. As with any parliamentary system, the head of the party in power becomes the prime minister and forms the government. While Rudd was prime minister, Gillard was deputy prime minister. Click here for a quick primer on Australian politics.

What I found interesting about this story (and my apologies if I get any details wrong as I am a novice when it comes to Australian politics) is that the polls show that Gillard is the favorite to win the Caucus (the Labor party’s members) vote on Monday 83 to 17 percent.  However, Rudd polls better in a general election match-up against the Opposition (Liberal party) Leader, Tony Abbott – an argument he and his supporters continue to make.  The prime minister must hold elections before November 30, 2013.

This reminded me of a relevant parallel in American politics of the conflict between primary and general election campaigns. While many in the GOP Presidential primary make the argument that they are the stronger candidate to challenge President Obama, they must continue to play to the base to win the GOP nod. It appears that the Australian public prefers Kevin Rudd to the prime minster going into the next general election. Similar to the American system, one must win its party’s favor to lead it and the country. However, while our system puts the power into the party’s public electorate, the Australian parliamentary system provides that the party members themselves chose their leader. Could you imagine if the “party bosses” decided who the leader was in the U.S.? 

It seems, at least for now, the party’s support is stronger with Gillard despite the opposite across the country. But, as they say, a few months is a lifetime in politics so she may have time to curry favor with the rest of the Aussie electorate. Remember Rick Perry and Herman Cain? 

There is one thing for sure: politics is the same whether its the United States, Australia or anywhere. In my short time watching this story unfold, the same message, strategy and tactics are being used to (my favorite: the Australian people are tired of this infighting!) build support celebrity gossip and persuade voters.

As the events in Australia’s leadership showdown continue, I will do my best to update you.

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