5 July 2016

Australian government in turmoil as vote count continues


The Australian Federal Elections on the weekend have so far failed to produce a clear winner, raising the prospect of prolonged political uncertainty. Counting continues on to this day, three days after the election, and the race remains too close to call. A spokesman for the Australian Electoral Commission has told press that a result may not be known for at least another week.

On the count so far the Coalition government has won at least 70 seats, fewer than the 76 needed to command a majority in the Lower House. Opposition leader Bill Shorten has staged an amazing comeback as the Labor party was set to lose with poor opinion polls during campaigning period. This has again highlighted the volatility of modern Australian politics. The opposition Labor Party may receive up to 68 seats. If neither party manages to gain a majority of seats, it would be Australia’s second hung parliament in just six years – former Prime Minister Julia Gillard remained in power after the 2010 election by making a deal with a small group of independent politicians.

At a press conference today, Mr Turnbull said that while he remained confident the Coalition would form a majority government, he recognised that “there were lessons to be learned” from the election. “There is no doubt that there is a level of disillusionment with politics, with government and with the major parties,” Mr Turnbull told reporters. “We need to listen very carefully to concerns of the Australian people expressed through this election.”.

Mr Turnbull’s polling has led to criticisms from outside his party. Labor Party leader Bill Shorten called for the Prime Minister to resign at a press conference on Monday, saying he was “not up to the job”.

If the coalition fails to form a government, it would be the first time in 85 years an Australian ruling party has lost power after its first term in office.

Belgium holds the record for the longest a developed country has been without an elected government, at 589 days. Could this be the direction Australian politics is steering towards?

Ilma Amin is a Mannkal Foundation scholar based in Australia.