Controversial WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange stands a real chance of winning an upper house seat in his native Australia if he presses ahead with plans to stand for election, a poll showed yesterday. A survey conducted by the ruling Labour party’s internal pollsters UMR Research and published in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper showed 25% of those polled would vote for the whistle-blowing website chief.Supporters of the left-wing Greens party were most likely to be pro-Assange, with 39% saying they would vote for him, meaning he had a good chance of wresting a Greens Senate spot, UMR’s John Utting told the newspaper.

“There is clearly a significant level of support for Julian Assange which crosses party lines and is more concentrated amongst Greens voters,” he said. “At this stage Julian Assange stands a very real chance of being elected to the Senate should he run.” Some 27% of Labour supporters said they would vote for him, as did 23% of conservatives, in the survey of 1,000 voters. Assange unveiled plans to run for Australia’s 76-seat Senate in March, vowing to be a libertarian and “fierce defender of free media” were he elected to the upper house.

He is reportedly considering a range of options, including standing as an independent, seeking an alliance with a party, or establishing his own party devoted to advancing open government. Though Australia goes to the polls every three years, senators serve a six-year term, so only half the Senate comes up for contest during national elections for the lower House of Representatives – next due in 2013. WikiLeaks has also said it will also field a candidate to run directly against Prime Minister Julia Gillard in her lower house electorate of Lalor in Melbourne.

Assange is under house arrest in Britain awaiting judgment from the Supreme Court in London on whether he can be extradited to Sweden for questioning over allegations of rape and sexual assault. Supporters fear if he is surrendered to Sweden he will be sent on to the US to be charged over the leaking of hundreds of thousands of top-secret US diplomatic memos on his whistle-blowing website