The result of Saturday's (18 May)general election in Australia was still in the balance on Monday (20 May).
The result of Saturday's (18 May)general election in Australia was still in the balance on Monday (20 May). And Australians could have to wait as long as two weeks before they know which party they've voted into power.
The result in the House of Representatives hinges on seven seats...and they could swing either way as counting progresses. So at this stage, Prime Minister Gough Whitlam's Labour Government is not prepared to predict whether it will be returned. On the other hand, the leader of the Liberal Party, Mr. Billy Snedden, still hopes the Opposition groups will be able to pip the Government at the post, and so he isn't conceding defeat.
After Monday's counting, Labour was certain of 61 seats in the 127-seat House of Representatives and the Opposition had 59. And on those figures, political analysts were tipping two alternatives -- a one to five seat majority for the Government, or a last-minute, one-seat win by the Opposition.
Voters also had to elect a new Senate (the Upper House) in Saturday's poll. Final results here could be as long as a month away. The already complicated and time-consuming preferential voting system used in the Senate election was complicated further by the large number of candidates. President figures give the Labour Government 31 of the 60 Senate places, with the Opposition and independent candidates sharing the remainder.
SYNOPSIS: Voters in Australia went to the polls on Saturday to elect a new Federal Government, but they could have a two-week wait before there's a clear-cut decision.
The man with the most to lose in this cliff-hanger situation is Labour Prime Minister Cough Whitlam, seen here voting in his Sydney electorate. The Prime Minister put his eighteen-month-old Government on the line, when Opposition parties combined to defeat it on a vital money bill. Mr. Whitlam hoped the Labour team would be returned with a stronger majority.
On Monday, the figures didn't look promising for the Prime Minister. Labour had a guaranteed sixty-one seats in the one hundred and twenty seven seat House of Representatives. The Opposition parties had fifty-nine. Seven seats are still in doubt, and could swing either way. The best the Government can hope for is a majority of from one to five seats; and the worst, a one-seat defeat.
Liberal Party leader Dilly Sneddon has not conceded defeat. He still hopes his party and its coalition partner, the Country Party, can combine to pip Labour at the post, thus putting political power back in the hands of the conservatives.
While the leaders appear to have a long wait on their hands for a result in the House of Representatives, counting in the election for the Senate--the Upper House--could take twice as long. In that poll, also conducted on Saturday, Labour appears to have gained a one seat majority, but even that is far from certain.