SYDNEY (AFP) - Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd plans to make a comeback and serve as the country's leader for a third time, a senior Labor party figure claimed on Thursday.
Mr Rudd's popularity with the Australian public came crashing down on Saturday when he was soundly defeated by conservative Tony Abbott as voters punished Labor at the ballot box for years of in-fighting.
He announced his resignation as Labor chief and since then pressure has been building on him to quit politics altogether, amid concerns he would be a destabilising influence on the party and whoever takes over as leader.
But former trade minister Craig Emerson, a staunch supporter of Mr Rudd's predecessor Julia Gillard, said he had been told that the 55-year-old wants to be prime minister again.
"Historians will note that Andrew Fisher served as a Labor prime minister on three separate occasions," he said in a column for The Australian newspaper titled: "Rudd wants to be leader again."
"Rudd has told three journalists at this newspaper that he wants to emulate Fisher and become a three-time Labor prime minister. He has described himself as a 'determined bastard'.
"When Rudd makes his next run for the leadership, the Labor party should refuse to cede to him the authority to redefine Labor philosophy in his own image and likeness," added Mr Emerson, who has accused Mr Rudd of not only undermining Ms Gillard but also former Labor leaders Simon Crean and Kim Beazley.
Mr Rudd won the 2007 general election in a landslide but he was dumped within his first term by colleagues fed up with his management style and demoted to foreign minister.
His sudden downfall mystified the Australian public and this, coupled with the unpopularity of Ms Gillard, prompted Labor to revive Mr Rudd's leadership a second time in June ahead of the 2013 polls.
In his concession speech on Saturday night Mr Rudd stoked speculation of a comeback down the track by saying his voice would vanish from public life "for some time".
Since being beaten by Mr Abbott, Mr Rudd has kept a low profile although close colleague Kim Carr said he intended to remain in parliament as the MP for Griffith in Queensland for a full three-year term.
With Mr Rudd's future uncertain, the race to replace him as leader has narrowed to Anthony Albanese, former deputy prime minister, and former education minister Bill Shorten.
Neither have commented publicly but various media reports said both had privately confirmed their intention to run.
Nominations for the party leadership are expected to be called at a Labor caucus meeting on Friday.