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Conservatives set to retain power in Australia election upset

Supporters of opposition Labor leader Bill Shorten watch the giant screens showing the results of Australia's general election in Melboune on May 18, 2019

SYDNEY: Australia’s ruling conservative coalition appears to have secured a shock election win Saturday, with national broadcasters predicting the party has defied expectations to retain power.

National broadcaster ABC called the election for Prime Minster Scott Morrison’s coalition, although it was not clear if it would be a minority or majority government.

The early results contrast with pre-election polls, which had predicted center-left Labor would win, and mean a winner may not be known on Saturday.

Betting markets, which had tagged Labor as a certain winner before election day, have swung violently to now back the coalition to form a government.

“I thought I was coming to a wake, to be quite honest with you,” Liberal supporter Greg Napper told Reuters at Sydney’s Wentworth Hotel, where the government holds its official election night function. “This is a party – the results are encouraging.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s coalition has taken a strong lead in several marginal seats in the state of Queensland, according to AEC figures, blocking one of Labor’s strongest paths to victory.

Similar trends are occurring on city fringes, in the areas where demographics closest resemble America’s Rust Belt.

The early results are more mixed nearer to the heavily populated cities of Sydney and Melbourne.

 

Supporters of opposition Labor leader Bill Shorten watch the giant screens showing the results of Australia’s general election in Melboune on May 18, 2019

CONSERVATIVE CASUALTY

The election campaign sparked several high-profile local battles, including attempts to remove Peter Dutton, a senior lawmaker who has championed Australia’s controversial policy of detaining asylum seekers in offshore centers.

Although Dutton has retained his Queensland seat, according to media analysts, former conservative prime minister Tony Abbott conceded on Saturday that he had lost his Sydney beaches seat of Warringah to high-profile independent Zali Steggall.

“So, of course, it’s disappointing for us here in Warringah, but what matters is what’s best for the country,” Abbott told supporters in a concession speech. “And what’s best for the country is not so much who wins or loses Warringah, but who forms, or does not form, a government in Canberra.”

The major parties were vying for a majority share of the 151 lower-house seats to form a government.

There are also 40 of 76 Senate spots contested in the election, the outcome of which will determine how difficult it will be for the next government to enact policy.

“At this stage, it is very hard to see anything other than the coalition staying in government, but we don’t know whether that is a majority or minority government,” said Antony Green, election analyst at the Australian Broadcasting Association. “We can’t see Labor forming government on the numbers at the moment.”

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