Senator Meg Lees, leader of the Australian Democrats, the party that holds the balance of power in the Senate, is to face a challenge from her deputy, Senator Natasha Stott-Despoja.
The party’s National Executive is likely to call for a ballot, either at its scheduled May meeting, or at a specially convened earlier meeting.
It is possible Senator Lees may opt to vacate the leadership in order to allow an immediate resolution of the conflict that has been bubbling beneath the surface of the party for some time now.
Lees has come under criticism for the deal she struck with the Howard government over the GST and a general perception that the party is too close to the government.
The Australian Democrats is the only party represented in the Federal Parliament – it has 9 senators – that allows rank and file members to elect the leadership.
A postal ballot of party members would take several weeks to complete, so the instability in the party is unlikely to be resolved quickly.
The Democrats are under pressure in the light of their poor showing in the Western Australian and Queensland elections. The 2 Democrats in the WA Legislative Council lost their seats to the Greens and the party polled a miniscule proportion of the vote in Queensland.