11 July 2016

Australia finally has a prime minister again


Eight days after Australia’s federal election ended in uncertainty, Malcolm Turnbull is returning as the Prime Minister, claiming victory for his conservative coalition.

“We have won considerably more first-preference votes than Labor, about 800,000 more first-preference votes… but most importantly, of course, we have secured the largest number of seats in the parliament,” he told reporters on Sunday.

Despite the tight race, it became apparent that Labor would not be able to win enough seats to form a majority, prompting the opposition leader Bill Shorten to formally concede on Sunday. “I hope for our nation’s sake the coalition does a good job,” Shorten told reporters in Melbourne. “I hope they run a good government.”

Shorten said that his party would work with the coalition to magnify their commonality, saying he understood Australia’s need for political stability after having gone through five prime ministers in the past decade. “I think Australians would like to see Liberal and Labor working out what they agree on,” he said.

The prolonged vote counting, which lasted over a week, has definitely raised questions about adopting faster methods to reach a result. Bill Shorten has expressed interest in moving to an electronic voting system to prevent delays in future Australian election results. “We’re a grown-up democracy,” he said. “It shouldn’t be taking eight days to find out who has won.” Malcolm Turnbull agrees with this inclination.

The political result has actively influenced the markets, as the Australian dollar traded slightly higher today following the announcement of the election results. “The political landscape is looking slightly more stable with the Liberals now set to return to government,” said OANDA Australia and Asia Pacific senior trader Stephen Innes. “We are seeing slightly subdued reaction to the Coalition win and changes on the Aussie dollar this morning.”

Australia has experienced major political uncertainty and it is now up to the returning Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to regain the confidence of the wider Australian population and pave the way to a stable political and economic climate.

Ilma Amin is a Mannkal Foundation scholar based in Australia.