SYDNEY: Conservative challenger Tony Abbott was heading for a major victory over Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Saturday as millions of Australians voted in national elections.
Polling booths opened at 8 a.m. on a warm spring day with 14.7 million electors taking part in a mandatory ballot across the huge country where early exit polls showed Abbott on track for a landslide win.
A Sky News exit poll released before voting was to end at 6 p.m. predicted that his
Liberal/Nationals would gain a massive 25 seats to sweep 97 of the 150 seats in the lower House of Representatives.
The survey, carried out by Newspoll, forecast Labor would lose 21 to be left with just 51. The independents would have two seats.
On a two-party basis, Abbott’s coalition would take 53 percent of the vote to Labour’s 47 percent.
A separate Morgan-Channel Ten exit poll showed that in the primary vote, which takes into account the minor parties and independents, the conservatives had 42.5 percent to Labor’s 33.5 percent.
The Greens Party would garner 11 percent and the newly-established Palmer United Party, run by colourful billionaire Clive Palmer, five percent, with “others” taking the rest.
Rudd has struggled for traction after toppling Julia Gillard, Australia’s first female prime minister, as Labor leader just weeks before calling the election and his party seems destined for a period in opposition.
He may not be around to lead it with the Sky poll showing he could be toppled in his Queensland seat of Griffith by Liberal/National Bill Glasson, with the result too close to call.