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Opposition party more likely to form government

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA (AP) – The opposition Labor Party appeared more likely than Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s coalition to form government after Australia’s election yesterday that could result in a rare hung parliament.

Center-left Labor could still form a majority government, based on early vote counting, lawmakers and analysts said. But the coalition’s only hope was to form a minority administration in a hung Parliament.

“A Labor majority in our own right is, I think it’s very clear, the most likely outcome of this election,” senior Labor lawmaker Chris Bowen told Seven Network.

Former Defence Minister Chris Pyne, who retired from Morrison’s government in the last election, also ruled out the coalition scoring enough seats to form a majority government. “The coalition can’t get there in its own right, no,” he said.

The government was seeking a fourth three-year term.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese’s party ended the six-week campaign as a favourite to win its first election since 2007. But Morrison defied the opinion polls in 2019 by leading his coalition to a narrow victory.

Citizens cast their votes at a polling booth in Sydney, Australia. PHOTO: AP

His coalition holds the narrowest of majorities – 76 seats in the 151-member House of Representatives, where parties need a majority to form a government.

In early counting yesterday, the coalition was on track to win 38 seats, Labor 71, seven were unaligned lawmakers and 23 were too close to call.

Minor parties and independents appeared to be taking votes from the major parties, which increases the likelihood of a hung Parliament and a minority government.

Australia most recent hung Parliaments were from 2010-13, and during World War II. A record proportion of postal votes because of the pandemic, which won’t be added to the count until today, adds to the uncertainty in early counting.

As well as campaigning against Labor, Morrison’s conservative Liberal Party fought off a new challenge from so-called teal independent candidates to key government lawmakers’ reelection in party strongholds.

At least four Liberal lawmakers appeared to have lost their seats to teal independents including Liberal Party deputy leader Josh Frydenberg, who had been considered Morrison’s most likely successor.

“What we have achieved here is extraordinary,” teal candidate and former foreign correspondent Zoe Daniels said in her victory speech. “Safe Liberal seat. Two-term incumbent. Independent,” she added.

The teal independents are marketed as a greener shade than the Liberal Party’s traditional blue colour and want stronger government action on reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions than either the government or Labor are proposing.