SYDNEY, Australia -- Bill Shorten, a Labor Party power broker who orchestrated the party coups that brought down two previous Australian prime ministers, said on Thursday that he would seek the party leadership himself, after a stinging defeat for Labor at the polls.
Six tumultuous years of Labor rule in Australia ended Saturday in a sweeping electoral victory for the conservative Liberal-National coalition led by Tony Abbott. The departing Labor prime minister, Kevin Rudd, kept his seat in Parliament but said he would not seek to lead the party in opposition.
In the campaign, Mr. Abbott focused relentlessly on Labor's history of political infighting, saying the party cared more about personal vendettas than pressing national issues. Restive Labor lawmakers ejected their first prime minister, Mr. Rudd, in 2010 and replaced him with Julia Gillard, only to turn on her this year and bring back Mr. Rudd again in June.
Mr. Shorten, a former education minister and union leader who had a hand in both rebellions, said on Thursday that his goal was to "draw a line under the Rudd and Gillard era." He said that as party leader, he would defend Labor's signature accomplishment under Ms. Gillard, a carbon-emissions trading system that Mr. Abbott has promised to repeal.
Some close races in the election last Saturday are still to be decided, but it is clear that Mr. Abbott's coalition will have a strong majority, with at least 86 of the 150 seats in the lower house of Parliament. After being drubbed at the polls, the Labor Party faces the challenge of choosing a new leader without reinforcing the widespread perception that it cannot enforce discipline. Mr. Shorten is the only declared candidate so far, but there is widespread speculation that Anthony Albanese, who was Mr. Rudd's deputy, will also run.
In a worrying sign for Labor, several senior politicians have already vented their frustration in the media. Stephen Conroy, a former communications minister, warned that a protracted contest risked making Labor into a "laughingstock." "A parliamentary Labor leader cannot sustain their leadership if they do not have the support of a majority of their colleagues," he told reporters.world
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.