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Australia's indecisive election highlights gov't instability

November 30,-0001 00:00

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull addresses party supporters during a rally in Sydney, Sunday, July 3, 2016, following a general election. The elections, which pit the conservative coalition government against the center-left Labor Party, cap ...



Australian
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull addresses party supporters during
a rally in Sydney, Sunday, July 3, 2016, following a general
election. The elections, which pit the conservative coalition
government against the center-left Labor Party, cap an
extraordinarily volatile period in the nation's politics. (AP
Photo/Rick Rycroft)

syndication.ap.org

SYDNEY (AP) — With the results of Australia's stunningly close
national election potentially weeks away, Australia's prime
minister and opposition leader were expected to spend Monday
trying to drum up support from minor parties in desperate bids to
form a working government.

The country was facing the prospect of a dreaded hung parliament
after Saturday's elections, which failed to deliver an immediate
victor. With about a quarter of the votes left to be counted,
neither Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's conservative Liberal
Party-led coalition nor the center-left Labor Party had secured
the required 76 seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives to
form a government.

Turnbull, who is pinning his hopes on mail-in and early ballots
that traditionally favor the conservatives, said he remained
quietly confident of an eventual victory.

Turnbull's coalition could indeed still win by a slim margin,
though with a reduced majority. But with Labor and the Liberals
in a virtual tie, there was a possibility neither would end up
with enough seats to form a majority government, resulting in a
hung parliament.

That would force the Liberals and Labor to try to strike
alliances with independent and minor party lawmakers in a bid to
form a minority government. If no alliance can be forged, the
government could end up calling yet another election.

As of Monday, Australian Broadcasting Corp. election analysts —
considered among the most reliable — were predicting that Labor
and the coalition were tied at 67 seats each and minor parties
leading in five seats. Another 11 seats were in doubt.

Counting by the Australian Electoral Commission was on hold until
Tuesday, with Turnbull warning that the ultimate result may not
be known until the end of the week. The electoral commission said
it may take up to a month.

With the possibility of a hung parliament looming, Turnbull and
opposition leader Bill Shorten both said they had contacted the
five independent lawmakers who could make up a minority
government if needed. Two of those — Tasmania state independent
Andrew Wilkie and Victoria state independent Cathy McGowan — said
on Monday they had yet to commit to either party.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said he had spoken with both
leaders, describing the phone calls as simple, "G'day, let's keep
in touch and see where the dust settles" conversations.

"I still think it's likely that Malcolm Turnbull might just get
across the line with a one-seat majority," Xenophon told
Melbourne radio station 3AW.

The lack of certainty wrought by the election continues an
incredibly volatile period in Australian politics, with Monday's
front page headline in Sydney's Daily Telegraph aptly blaring
"CHAOS REIGNS." Weary Australians have watched as internal party
squabbling and fears over flagging poll ratings have prompted
five changes of prime minister in as many years.

Even if Turnbull's party wins, the country could potentially end
up with yet another new prime minister. Turnbull took a gamble by
opting to call the rare early election, and few had predicted his
party would suffer such steep losses. The disappointing result
could put him at risk for an internal leadership challenge from
unhappy colleagues.

Mobbed by reporters outside his Sydney home on Monday morning,
Turnbull ignored a question about whether he was still confident
of his leadership, only telling journalists "the counting
continues."

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