CANBERRA, Australia — Australias ruling conservative coalition won a surprise victory in the countrys general election on Saturday, defying opinion polls that had tipped the center-left opposition party to oust it from power and promising an end to the revolving door of national leaders.
Opposition Labor Party leader Bill Shorten conceded defeat late in the evening as Prime Minister Scott Morrisons Liberal Party-led coalition came close to a majority in the 151-seat House of Representatives, where parties need a majority to form a government. Vote counting was to continue on Sunday.
It is obvious that Labor will not be able to form the next government and so, in the national interest, a short while ago, I called Scott Morrison to congratulate him, Shorten told distraught Labor supporters.
The tight race raised the prospect of the coalition forming a minority government. The conservatives became a rare minority government after they dumped Malcolm Turnbull for Morrison in an internal power struggle last August. The government then lost two seats and its single-seat majority as part of the blood-letting that followed.
Pre-election opinion polls had suggested that the coalition would lose its bid for a third three-year term, and that Morrison would have had one of the shortest tenures as prime minister in the 118-year history of the Australian federation.
There was so much public confidence of a Labor victory that Australian online bookmaker Sportsbet paid out 1.3 million Australian dollars ($900,000) to bettors who backed Labor two days before the election. Sportsbet said 70% of wagers had been placed on Labor at odds of $1.16.
Shorten, who campaigned heavily on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, said Saturday morning that he was confident Labor would win, but Morrison would not be drawn on a prediction.
Tony Abbott, who became the first of the three conservative prime ministers in the 2013 election, conceded defeat Saturday in the Sydney seat he has held since 1994.
Polling suggests climate change was a major issue in the seat for voters, who elected an independent candidate, Zali Steggall. As prime minister in 2014, Abbott repealed a carbon tax introduced by a Labor government. Abbott was replaced by Turnbull the next year because of poor opinion polling, but he remained a government lawmaker.
Senior Labor lawmaker Chris Bowen said his party may have suffered from what he conceded was an unusual strategy of pushing a detailed policy agenda through the election campaign.
Morrison began the day Saturday by campaigning in the island state of Tasmania, where the Liberals appeared to have gained two Labor-held seats. He then flew 900 kilometers (560 miles) home to Sydney to vote and to campaign in Sydney seats.
The government has committed Australia to reduce its emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2030. Labor has promised a 45% reduction in the same time frame.
Shorten, a 52-year-old former labor union leader, has also promised a range of reforms, including the government paying all of a patients costs for cancer treatment and a reduction of tax breaks for landlords.
Morrison, a 51-year-old former tourism marketer, said he had closed Labors lead in opinion polls during the five-week campaign and predicted a close result.
Both major parties promised that whoever wins the election will remain prime minister until he next faces the voters judgment. The parties have changed their rules to make the process of lawmakers replacing a prime minister more difficult.
During Labors last six years in office, the party replaced Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with his deputy Julia Gillard, then dumped her for Rudd.
Left: Australias Prime Minister Scott Morrison with wife Jenny, children Abbey and Lily after winning the 2019 Federal Election, at the Federal Liberal Reception at the Sofitel-Wentworth hotel in Sydney, Australia, May 18, 2019. AAP Image/Dean Lewins/via Reuters
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Australia’s ruling conservative coalition defied polls and scored a stunning political victory in the country’s general election on Saturday, with the main opposition party officially conceding the defeat.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten called Prime Minister Scott Morrison to congratulate him on the election victory. He told Labor party supporters that his party didn’t win enough seats to form a coalition government.
"I know that you're all hurting, and I am too. And without wanting to hold out any false hope, while there are still millions of votes to count … it is obvious that Labor will not be able to form the next government,” he said. “In the national interest, a short while ago, I called Scott Morrison to congratulate him.”
Labor party supporters watch the tally count at the Federal Labor Reception in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, May. 18, 2019. Voting has closed in Australias general election, with some senior opposition lawmakers confident that they will form a center-left government with a focus on slashing greenhouse gas emissions. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
Morrison used his victory speech to thank “quiet Australians” who led the coalition to the stunning political victory.
“It's Australians who have worked hard, started a business, started a family, bought a home,” he said. “These are the quiet Australians who have won a great victory tonight.”
Its Australians who have worked hard, started a business, started a family, bought a home. These are the quiet Australians who have won a great victory tonight.
The conservative Liberal-National Party coalition is reportedly on course to win 74 seats in the 151-seat lower parliamentary house, with 65 seats to Labor and 12 undecided.
But there was at least one casualty on the conservative side. Former prime minister Tony Abbot conceded defeat in the Sydney seat he has held since 1994.
He lost to the independent candidate and Olympian Zali Steggall amid his opposition to the climate change action, a cause many of his voters cared about.
Australias former Prime Minister Tony Abbott attends Britains annual Conservative Party Conference in 2016. (Reuters)
Abbot tried to put a positive spin on his loss, telling his supporters: “I want to say to you: there is good news and bad news. There is every chance that the Liberal-National Coalition has won the election.”
“This – this is a really extraordinary result. It is a stupendous result. It is a great result for Scott Morrison and the rest of the wider Liberal team, and Scott Morrison will now, quite rightly, enter the Liberal pantheon forever,” he added.
“So it’s disappointing for us in Warringah. I can’t say it doesn’t hurt to lose. But I would rather be a loser than a quitter.”
The win defies pre-election opinion polls that suggested the conservative coalition would lose the election, with Morrison having one of the shortest tenures as prime minister in the 118-year history of Australia.
Australian online bookmaker Sportsbet even paid out 1.3 million Australian dollars ($900,000) to bettors who backed Labor two days before the election.
The coalition is set to form a government for a third term despite the suffering from internal turmoil that culminated in the ouster of Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister for Morrison last August. The government then also lost two seats and its single-seat majority.