Kevin Rudd, who stepped down as Australia's foreign minister this week, said on Friday he would contest a leadership vote against Prime Minister Julia Gillard, bringing to a head a bitter leadership fight engulfing the minority government.
Rudd, who was ousted as prime minister by Gillard in June 2010, said Australians had lost trust in Gillard and the party was headed to an electoral wipeout at the next elections, due in late 2013, under her leadership.
"I want to finish the job the Australian people elected me to do when I was elected by them to become Prime Minister," Rudd told reporters.
Gillard called a leadership vote for Monday after Rudd quit as foreign minister on Wednesday, hoping the early vote would enable her to stamp her authority over the Labor Party and head off Rudd's hopes of building support.
But the vote has opened deep divisions within the government, split the cabinet over which leader to support, and unleashed a wave of criticism against both Rudd and Gillard from the warring factions.
The leadership crisis was sparked by poor opinion polls which show the government would be decimated at the next election, losing up to 15 seats. Labor's popularity has plunged under Gillard because of the introduction of contentious legislation and concessions to independent lawmakers and the Greens.