Australians awoke Sunday to a government plagued in uncertainty after a stunningly close national election failed to deliver a clear victor, raising the prospect of a hung parliament. The gamble by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to call a rare early election may have failed, with his conservative Liberal Party-led coalition on track to lose a swathe of seats in the House of Representatives — and potentially control of the country. One day after the election, the race remained too close to call, with mail-in ballots and early votes yet to be counted. Still, Turnbull sounded a confident tone during a speech to supporters early Sunday morning. “Based on the advice I have from the party officials, we can have every confidence that we will form a coalition majority government in the next parliament,” Turnbull said.
Parties need to hold at least 76 seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives to form a government. When the count was suspended early Sunday, the Australian Electoral Commission said the center-left opposition Labor Party was leading in 72 seats, Turnbull’s coalition in 66 seats, and minor parties or independents in five seats. Counting was less clear in another seven seats.
Though the initial count showed Labor ahead, mail-in and early ballots have traditionally favored the conservatives, meaning Turnbull’s party is likely to gain seats once those are factored in. The final tally was not expected to be known until Tuesday.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten did not speculate on a Labor victory but celebrated the strong swing to his party just three years after it was convincingly dumped from power in the last election. “Whatever happens next week, Mr. Turnbull … will never again be able to promise the stability which he has completely failed to deliver tonight,” he said in a speech to cheering supporters on Saturday.