Canberra, May 18 (IANS) Australia’s Liberal-National Party (LNP) Coalition led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison appears set to defy predictions by winning the federal election on Saturday, the country’s national broadcaster said.
But with nearly half of votes yet to be counted, it is unclear whether the centre-right Liberal Prime Minister will be able to form a majority government.
“At this stage, we think the Morrison government has been re-elected. We can’t say whether the government will be in a majority or minority, but we’re certainly seeing enough numbers to say that the coalition will end up with more seats than Labor,” said Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s chief election analyst Antony Green.
According to the ABC, after the count of about 60 per cent of the votes, the government holds at least 74 seats and will receive the support of Independent candidates required to form a minority government in a worst-case scenario.
The Australian Labour Party (ALP) led by Bill Shorten, which began Saturday as the favourite to win power after six years in opposition, appears hardly to convert the lead it has held in opinion polls for over two years into the results it required.
Every opinion poll suggested that Labour was set for victory on the back of strong swings towards the party in electorates in Victoria and Queensland.
However, the LNP was able to mitigate its losses in Victoria, considered the most progressive state in Australia, while also winning seats from Labour in Queensland.
Australia has mandatory voting and a record 16.4 million voters enrolled for the election.
Saturday’s vote was the first general election since political infighting ousted Australia’s fourth leader in a decade.
Morrison said he united his conservative government in the nine months since he replaced Malcolm Turnbull. But Shorten pressed his case with stark policy alternatives, promising to cut tax breaks for the wealthy and to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Australia holds elections every three years, but no Prime Minister has succeeded in serving a full term since 2007.
Surveys showed that the economy, cost of living, environment and health were central concerns for voters.
As the Liberal-National government seeks its third term, Morrison said he healed bitter internal divisions that brought down Turnbull. He campaigned primarily on economic issues, often doing so alone while painting the election as a choice between himself and Shorten.
Shorten, who led Labour for six years, instead emphasised his team’s stability and policies on climate change, cost of living and health.
Also vying for support were minor parties including the Greens, One Nation and the United Australia Party as well as a raft of independents.