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Australian PM vows to make predecessor a minister

world Updated: Jul 18, 2010 17:07 IST

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard vowed on Sunday to give her once-popular predecessor a senior Cabinet post if her government wins elections, which could be called as soon as Monday.

Gillard successfully challenged Kevin Rudd for the leadership of the ruling Labour Party three weeks ago in a shock internal coup. Rudd was then excluded from her Cabinet.

Opinion polls show Australia's first woman prime minister has boosted the government's popularity to an election-winning position, although public disquiet remains about Rudd's sudden political demise.

"I have said Kevin Rudd will serve as a senior minister in a re-elected Gillard government," the prime minister told reporters on the island state of Tasmania. "I will honour that commitment."

Under the Australian political system the prime minister decides an election date, which is kept secret until it is authorised by the governor general. An election called on Monday would be held on August 21 or 28.

Gillard declined to say whether she would call an election on Monday. "I'm not engaging in election speculation," she said.

Australian media reported on Saturday that Gillard reneged on a confidential deal with Rudd that would have allowed him several weeks to attempt to improve the government's popularity before she moved to grab power. If he had failed, he had would have voluntarily handed power to her, his deputy at the time, news reports said.

The unsourced allegations could undermine Gillard's popularity. Labour sources accuse a bitter Rudd of damaging the government's re-election chances by leaking details of his conversations with Gillard to the media, The Australian newspaper reported on Sunday.