© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Anthony Albanese, leader of Australia’s Labor Party, addresses supporters after incumbent Prime Minister and Liberal Party leader Scott Morrison conceded defeat in the country’s general election, in Sydney, Australia May 21, 2022. REUTERS/Ja


By Renju Jose

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s Labor party looks set to form the next government after unprecedented support for climate-focussed independents ended a decade’s rule of the conservative coalition, although the new government may not end up with a full majority.

Centre-left Labor is 4-5 seats short of a majority of 76 in the 151 seat lower chamber with about a dozen electorates deemed too close to call, television channels reported on Sunday, as Labor looks to return to power for the first time since 2013.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese will become the 31st prime minister after independents, who campaigned for more action on climate change, toppled Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Liberal Party in several of its traditional strongholds. The independents and a strong showing from the Greens also ate into Labor’s vote share in many seats.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was poised to lose to independent Monique Ryan and could become one of the highest-ranking ministers to lose.

Albanese, during his victory speech on Saturday night, said he was looking to be sworn in on Monday along with some senior members, before heading off to Tokyo to attend a Quad meeting on Tuesday alongside U.S. President Joe Biden and prime ministers of Japan and India.

Deputy leader of Labor Richard Marles said the party could still get enough seats to govern on their own.

“I think there is a bit of counting to go, and we are hopeful that we can achieve a majority in our own right,” Marles told ABC television on Sunday.

Official results could be several days away, with the counting of a record 2.7 million postal votes to begin Sunday afternoon, two days earlier than prior elections.

If a hung parliament emerges, independents will hold considerable weight in framing the government’s policies on climate change and the efforts to set up a national anti-corruption commission.

With Morrison stepping down as party leader and Frydenberg likely to lose his seat, Defence Minister Peter Dutton – a former policeman from Queensland – was shaping up as favourite to lead the Liberals.

Barnaby Joyce, the leader of the Liberals junior partner, the National Party, said Australia needs a “strong government,” which needs to be supported and also held to account.

“So you have to go from a good government to a good opposition,” Joyce told Sky News on Sunday.

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