Australia

Counting Begins In Australia Election

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his wife Lucy cast their ballots in Sydney/Photo: Reuters
Counting Begins In Australia Election

The polls have closed in Australia’s federal election and the result is too close to call, early results suggest.

More than 10 million people cast ballots on Saturday, on top of four million who voted early.

Early results from east coast and south Australian polling booths indicate a neck-and-neck race between the two major parties.

Minor party candidates are also taking seats and a hung parliament is possible.

Labor is likely to improve upon the 55 seats it currently holds in the lower house, after gaining seats in Tasmania and New South Wales.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s claims that the government intended to dismantle Australia’s public health system, Medicare, was widely being credited with creating a late swing to Labor.

The government is polling more strongly in Queensland, while Senator Nick Xenophon’s newly formed pro-protectionism party is doing well in South Australia.

Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party has also seen strong results in Queensland, with the controversial politician likely to return to parliament as a senator.

The UK’s decision to leave the European Union has likely benefitted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says he’s in it to win it, but pundits agree that a Labor victory is unlikely.

But there are still plenty of reasons for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to feel nervous.

As is the case elsewhere in the world, Australians seem in a mood to punish the major parties.

A hung parliament appears possible in the lower house. If the coalition doesn’t take enough seats to form government in its own right, Mr Turnbull will need to deal with the minor parties and independents.

Even if the coalition secures the lower house, candidates from outside the two major parties look likely to do well in the Senate. A substantial crossbench could play havoc with the government’s attempts to pass legislation.

The conservative wing of the Liberal Party still regards Malcolm Turnbull with suspicion. Anything less than a convincing victory will leave him vulnerable to rebellion.

As the result of the UK’s referendum became clear, Mr Turnbull assured voters that he could deliver “economic certainty”.

The former lawyer and investment banker vowed to deliver tax cuts for workers and small businesses.

In contrast, Mr Shorten has promised to make his first priority legalising same-sex marriage.

The government and Labor have sparred over the economy, healthcare, immigration and same-sex marriage during the campaign.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and his wife Chloe spent Friday meeting local residents in Sydney’s suburbs

On the sidelines

An electoral flight to the independents could force the next government to walk a legislative minefield.

The Greens – who have 10 senators and one lower house MP – are predicted to win more seats, particularly in inner-city areas where climate change and the treatment of refugees are major concerns.

The Nick Xenophon Team is expected to do particularly well in South Australia and could control the balance of power in the event of a hung parliament.

Pauline Hanson, the founder of the far-right One Nation party, is a chance to re-enter politics in the Senate on an anti-immigration platform.

A string of minor and micro parties with wildly diverse agendas are also running for both lower and upper house seats.

These include the pro-gun, small-government Liberal Democrats, the Christian evangelical-backed Family First, anti-Islamic party Rise Up Australia, the anti-vaccination Health Party and offbeat civil libertarians The Australian Sex Party.

Source/BBC
CF/AH

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