Preliminary results from Australia’s bitterly contested election show that Conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison is facing an all-out struggle to stay in power, with voters proposing a harsher rebuke for his party’s inaction on climate change.
With nearly half the votes counted, Anthony Albanese’s center-left Labor was projected as the largest party in parliament, but a clear majority has not yet been confirmed.
Three years after being punished for natural disasters and epidemics, Australians have backed a string of climate-centric candidates who can still maintain a balance of power.
The Australian Greens and the so-called “Tills” – most of the highly qualified women independents who ran on eco-friendly, anti-corruption and gender equality tickets – were ready for a series of once-protected conservative urban seats.
“People are saying the climate crisis is something they want to take action on,” said Greens leader Adam Bandit.
“We’ve just had three years of drought, and then fires and now floods and then floods again. And people are seeing it happen and it’s getting manifested.”
If the initial trend is maintained, the Australians will end a decade of uninterrupted conservative rule.
Among the deeply troubled high-profile liberals were Economy Minister Josh Friedenberg and former Israeli ambassador Dave Sharma, both of whom were behind the “Till” candidates.
Face to face
While the long and often bitter campaign focused on the character of the two leaders, the policy was largely on the rear burner.
But young Australians are increasingly angry at the government’s pro-coal policy, a housing market that is largely out of reach and taxpayers’ misuse of money.
“I grew up in a community that has been really badly affected by fires and floods in the last five years,” said first-time voter Jordan Neville in Melbourne.
“It would be amazing to see something done about it and stop it from happening again.”
Morrison has resisted calls for a rapid reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and supports coal extraction and mining in the distant future to boost the economy.
Earlier on Saturday, Labor called on Albanian voters to give his center-left party a “crack” in running the country and called on the people to reject the “divisive” prime minister.
Morrison – who fell behind in the pre-election polls – was able to boast of a post-lockdown economy recovery and an unemployment rate of less than 48 years.
He described his opponent as a “loose unit” who is incapable of driving the economy, but has been plagued by low ratings of personal approval, allegations of dishonesty and spin before substance.
Albanese – who described himself as innocent and inspiring – paid close attention to Morrison’s alleged failure in the last days of the campaign.
The Labor leader said Australians “want someone who is fair, someone who will ‘admit to making a mistake’.”
Albany has promised to hold a referendum to end Australia’s tug-of-war over climate change, help people struggling with rising prices and give Indigenous peoples an institutional voice in national policy.
His party did worse than expected from opinion polls, which saw them at gaining about a third of the support.
Speaking in Adelaide during the blitz on the eve of the four-nation election, Albanese was overwhelmed as he reflected on his personal journey – from the son of a single mother living in Sydney public housing to the doorstep of the country’s highest office.
“It says a lot about this country,” he said Friday, voicing emotion. “Someone from that beginning … can stand in front of you today, hoping to be elected Prime Minister of this country tomorrow.”
If elected, Albanese notes he will be the first Australian to become prime minister with a non-Anglo or Celtic title.
Voting is compulsory, with an Aus $ 20 (US $ 14) fine, but is rewarded in many booths for blowing up barbecues to offer people the “sausage of democracy.”
The House of Representatives will control the Senate and elect the Prime Minister’s “lodge”.
According to the Australian Electoral Commission, more than seven million people have cast their ballots in advance.
The children greeted Morrison excitedly as he brought his wife and two daughters to vote at a school in Sydney’s Lilly Pili suburb.
Asked how he would like to be remembered if he lost the election, the prime minister told reporters: “It will be decided by others.”
His party did worse than expected from opinion polls, which saw them at gaining about a third of the seats.
Labor has called the move “desperate and shameless.”
Both sides are trying to attract voters concerned about the rising cost of living, with annual inflation shooting up to 5.1 percent and failing to keep wages in real terms.
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)