SYDNEY: Australia’s election was on a knife-edge Saturday (Jul 2) with the ruling conservatives struggling to win enough seats to form majority government, raising the prospect of a hung parliament.
Seventy-six seats are needed to rule outright in the 150-seat House of Representatives, but there was a swing against Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberal/National coalition results showed as vote counting went deep into the night.
National broadcaster ABC, which is known for calling elections results, said an outcome was unlikely Saturday.
“I’m prepared to make a prediction. We won’t know who has won tonight,” the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s respected election analyst Antony Green said, with about four million postal votes still being sifted through.
He forecast Bill Shorten’s Labor opposition would not hold more than 70 seats and the coalition could fall short of a majority by one seat, with 75, despite being backed by the nation’s media.
More than four hours after most polling booths closed, the Australian Electoral Commission had Turnbull’s party on 71 seats to 68 for Labor with crossbenchers – politicians who are independent or from minor parties – winning five.
It could mean a parliament where no side commands a lower house majority, as voters fed up with traditional politicians look for alternatives, meaning crossbenchers will play an important role in forming government.
“First term governments always, always, have a swing against them. We know that,” Treasurer Scott Morrison said, putting a brave face on the results.
Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said Turnbull’s leadership was in peril.
“I think the real question is for Malcolm Turnbull – can he remain leader with the loss of so many seats?” she told the Nine Network.
The government went into the election with a large majority of seats.
The vote culminated a marathon race where economic management became a key issue in the wake of the Brexit verdict.
Multi-millionaire former banker Turnbull, 61, was looking to bolster his power after ousting fellow Liberal Tony Abbott in a party coup last September and he was upbeat when casting his vote at a school near his Sydney harbourside mansion.
“Win the election,” a boy yelled out as he stuffed his voting form in the ballot box, to which Turnbull replied: “Thank you, we are working on it.”
Ex-union chief Shorten, 49, has been gunning to return Labor to office after it was thumped by the conservatives at the last election in 2013.
“What will decide this election is what is in the best interests for working and middle class Australia,” he said before polling closed in a last-ditch bid to rally undecided voters to his platform of better health, jobs and education.
Turnbull has campaigned on tough asylum-seeker policies, a plan …