BY RACHEL PANNETT
CANBERRA—Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd stepped down on Thursday, amid a mutiny in the once-popular leader's governing party, clearing the way for the country's first female prime minister.
Mr. Rudd resigned before a leadership ballot could be held, after Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, a Welsh-born 48-year-old former trial lawyer, challenged him for the top spot in the governing center-left Labor Party—a post that carries with it the premiership. Ms. Gillard stood unopposed at Thursday's vote of Labor's 112 lawmakers.
Ms. Gillard's candidacy was backed by the Labor Party's right wing, but also by key unions on the left.