Australia's conservative government has scored a stunning upset in Federal elections edging the Labor party which had led in almost all polls and had been widely expected to end almost six years of Liberal governance.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Liberal-National coalition is set to win enough seats in the 151 member House of Representatives to enable him to form at least a minority government. The final result will not be known for several days but Labor leader Bill Shorten conceded and said he would resign as party leader.
At writing the Australian state broadcaster ABC projects 74 seats for the coalition, 65 for Labor, one for the Greens and five independent seats with six in contention. The coalition earned 50.7% of the popular vote.
The victory confounded pollsters who had predicted a Labor success. It is uncertain whether the coalition will win the 76 seats needed for an outright majority.
The Australian Dollar closed on Friday at 0.6862 against the US Dollar a three year low. The aussie has fallen 4.5% in the last month, partially on anticipation of a Labor victory. The surprise success of the more business friendly Liberals should provide support for the Australian currency.
The election was fought on two competing programs for the Australian economy. Shorten campaigned on a progressive agenda addressing wealth inequality by including tax cuts for low income workers, increasing the minimum wage and reducing advantages for stock and property investors. Labor emphasized the threat from climate change and proposed a sweeping emissions curb.
The government ran on its economic record, tax cuts and its return to a surplus budget. It helped that Australia’s 28 years of uninterrupted growth is a developed world record. A downturn in the housing markets was addressed by offering support for first time home buyers.
The Liberal victory is the biggest upset in Australian politics since Labor’s Paul Keating won in 1993.
Mr. Morrison’s government has had to contend with a deepening trade dispute between its largest trading partner, China, and its most important ally, the United States that may have prompted voters to reject a change in government.
Morrison only took command of the Liberal party in August and is its third leader in in four years.
Malcolm Turnbull the prior leader was ousted last year after losing an effort to force the party to take a stronger position on green-house gas emissions. Mr. Turnbull in turn had ousted Tony Abbot elected Prime Minister in 2013 in a Liberal party vote in September 2015 and assumed control of the party and government.
Morrison could be the first prime minister in more than a decade to complete his term.
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