SYDNEY: Australia’s conservative Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will likely “scrape over the line” after tight weekend elections, his Labor opponent Bill Shorten said on Friday.
As the vote count continued, both Turnbull’s ruling Liberal/National coalition and Labor were short the 76 seats needed to claim a majority in the 150-seat House of Representatives.
“It’s likely in coming days that the Liberals will scrape over the line,” Shorten told his Labor colleagues at a meeting in Canberra.
But he said with the count so close, the prime minister had little authority as he predicted that Australians would be back at the polls “within the year.”
Turnbull has not yet claimed victory but the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s respected election analyst Antony Green said Friday he expected the 61-year-old millionaire would be “returned as prime minister.”
The latest ABC projections give the government 73 seats and Labor 66, with independents and minor parties winning five and six seats still in the balance nearly a week after Saturday’s polls.
“We’re hoping to have a majority in our own right,” Turnbull said on Friday in Melbourne, where he was meeting with one of the independent lawmakers. Turnbull lost the government’s comfortable majority in the House of Representatives in Saturday’s election after his campaign on “jobs and growth” and “innovation” failed to resonate equally across the vast country.
In recent days he has met with independents, who could bolster his numbers in the House, including colorful Queenslander Bob Katter who has offered his support.
On Friday, Turnbull met with lawmaker Cathy McGowan from Victoria who said she would support the government while maintaining her independence.
A third independent Andrew Wilkie said he would not enter into a deal with any party to help them form government, but nor would he vote against budget supply or support votes of no confidence unless in exceptional circumstances.
Australia has endured a “revolving door” of prime ministers in recent years, with leaders removed at the ballot box and via internal party room coups.
Turnbull became the nation’s fourth prime minister since 2013 when he rolled Liberal leader Tony Abbott in a party vote last September.