Sat, Jul 02, 2016 - Page 6 News List

Australian election seen as a dead heat

Reuters, SYDNEY

Australia braced for an election that was too close to call yesterday, with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull warning of economic chaos if his gamble on an early poll backfires and leaves him without the outright majority he needs to enact major reforms.

The leader of Australia’s conservative coalition prompted today’s election by dissolving both houses of parliament in May, blaming intransigent independents in the upper house Senate for blocking his agenda.

New polls yesterday showed voters might return an even more unruly upper house.

Turnbull said that minor parties, possibly in coalition with Labor, could not be trusted to manage an economy hampered by the first mining downturn in a century and balance public finances after years of deficits.

Turnbull, acknowledging that the contest was “really close,” urged voters not to be cavalier at the ballot box.

“This is not a time to make a protest vote. This is a time to treat your vote as though that is the single vote that will determine the next government,” he told reporters in Sydney.

Turnbull’s coalition is facing a strong challenge from Labor, as well as from independents and minor parties like the Greens, who could win enough seats to hold the balance of power in the upper house or force a minority government in the lower house.

A Fairfax and Ipsos poll published yesterday showed Labor and the coalition locked in a dead heat at 50-50, well within the 2.6 percent margin of error for the survey of 1,377 respondents taken from Sunday to Wednesday.

The Murdoch-owned Galaxy polling agency showed a similar outcome, with the government faring slightly better on 51-49 on a first party-preferred basis after the distribution of preference votes from minor parties to the two main contenders.

Turnbull’s own grip on power even appeared tenuous, with the Fairfax poll showing 27 percent of voters intended to vote for a party other than the coalition or Labor.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon, whose new party is fielding almost 50 candidates, could also emerge with influence. So, too, could former legislator Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, which has campaigned on anti-immigration agendas.

“Whatever happens in this election ... if we see One Nation elected, if we see a greater informal vote, blame Malcolm Turnbull and the Greens. This was their idea,” Labor Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten told reporters in Sydney.

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