SYDNEY – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison conceded defeat in an election on Saturday and the opposition Labor Party is set to end nearly a decade of conservative rule, possibly in support of independents who campaigned for green policy.
Partial results show that while Labor has made little gains, Morrison’s Liberal-National Coalition has been penalized by voters in Western Australia, and especially the affluent urban constituencies.
The Greens and a group of so-called “Till Independents” who campaigned for integrity, gender equality and the policy to tackle climate change have put up a strong show, tapping voters’ anger for their inaction on climate change after some horrific floods and fires hit Australia.
The new parliament appears to be far less climate-skeptical than the one supporting Morrison’s pro-coal mining administration.
“Tonight, I have spoken with the Leader of the Opposition and incoming Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. And I congratulate him on his election victory this evening, “said Morrison, who is stepping down as leader of his party.
Albanese, speaking on the sidelines of his party, said he wanted to unite the country.
“I think people want to come together, to look after our common interests, to look at those feelings of common purpose. I think the division of the people is enough, all they want is to come together as one nation and I want to lead it. “
As a result, Labor alone has failed to reach 76 of the 151 lower house seats needed to form a government. The final results could take time as a record number of postal votes are counted.
With 55% of the vote counted, Labor won 72 seats and Morrison’s coalition 52 seats The Australian Broadcasting Corp estimates that there are 11 independent and greens Another 18 seats remain in doubt.
The center-left Labor gave a decent lead in opinion polls ahead of the election, although polls show the Liberal-National government has narrowed the gap on the final spread of the six-week campaign.
In one of the biggest blows to the government, Treasurer Josh Friedenberg said it would be “difficult” for him to hold on to Melbourne’s long-held Liberal seat against an independent newcomer.
Three volunteers working for Till Independent Monique Ryan, who are challenging Friedenberg, joined Ryan’s campaign because they were concerned about the climate for their children and grandchildren.
“For me, this election actually looks promising,” Charlotte Forwood, with three adult children, told Reuters.
With Morrison’s resignation and the prospect of Friedenberg losing his seat, Secretary of Defense Peter Dutton – a former Queensland policeman – became a favorite to lead the Liberal Party.
Early returns suggest that Greens has made ground, looking to get three seats in Queensland.
Greens leader Adam Bandet, who holds the Melbourne seat in his hometown, says climate is a major problem for voters.
“There have been attempts from Labor and the Liberals to bury it, and we have been very clear about the need to tackle the climate by tackling coal and gas.”
Morrison and Albanians voted for them in Sydney after a whistle-stop tour across the marginal seats over the last two days of campaigns affected by rising living costs, climate change and integrity.
As labor focused on rising inflation and wage growth, Morrison turned the country’s lowest unemployment in nearly half a century into the focus of the last hour of his campaign.
(Reporting by Renju Jose, John Myer and Byron Kay in Sydney, and Lincoln Feast by Sonali Paul in Melbourne. Editing by Ross Russell, Timothy Heritage, and Frances Carey)