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Australian Election Tightens After Rocky Start to Campaign

Australian Election Tightens After Rocky Start to Campaign
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a press conference in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, 28 February 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE/DARREN ENGLAND)

Australian voters are turning their backs on the two major parties ahead of next month’s election, with new polling showing the center-right government and the opposition Labor Party could both struggle to win a majority in Parliament. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Liberal National Coalition government saw its primary support fall to 35%, while the opposition Labor Party’s fell to 36%, according to a Newspoll opinion survey published in The Australian newspaper on Monday. At the same time, one in four voters said they were planning to vote for a minor party or an independent candidate, with support rising to 12% for the Australian Greens and 4% for the far-right One Nation party.

Australia is due to vote in a national election May 21, with the government campaigning for a fourth term in power off the back of its economic management. The parties need 76 seats in the 151-seat Australian parliament if they want to form government, with Morrison’s coalition currently holding a slim majority.

If neither secures a majority, then they’ll need to negotiate with minor parties and independent lawmakers to form a minority government. Australia has only had one such government in the past half century, between 2010 and 2013, but recent elections have seen fewer and fewer votes won by the two major parties.

Although the opposition Labor Party headed into the election as the favorite, its campaign struggled to contain a series of gaffes in its first week, including leader Anthony Albanese saying he didn’t know the unemployment rate on the first day of the election campaign.

Government trailing | But Labor Party's lead is shrinking as vote nears

Albanese’s net approval rating has plunged to -14 in the latest Newspoll survey, its lowest since he became Labor Party leader in 2019, while PM Morrison’s has recovered slightly to -9. The estimated two-party preferred vote has remained at 53% for Labor and 47% to the government.

A Resolve opinion survey published in the Nine newspapers on Sunday also showed support had risen for several minor parties as the Labor Party’s vote collapsed from 38% to 34%.

Speaking Tuesday in Western Australian, Morrison ruled out making a deal with any minor parties or independent lawmakers to form a minority government, saying a vote for an independent was a vote for “chaos.”

“This election is a choice, you can vote for the stability and certainty that we’ve been able to provide, you can vote for the chaos and instability of independents,” Morrison told reporters. While Albanese has also rule out a deal with independents, both leaders would be forced to negotiate if neither wins 76 seats. BM

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