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.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison compared his Liberal Partys victory for a third three-year term to the births of his daughters, Abbey, 11, and Lily, 9, who were conceived naturally after 14 years of in vitro fertilization had failed. His wife, Jenny Morrison, suffered endometriosis.
“I have always believed in miracles,” Morrison, 51, told a jubilant Sydney crowd as he claimed victory.
“Im standing with the three biggest miracles in my life here tonight, and tonight weve been delivered another one,” he said, embraced by his wife and daughters.
The triumph by Mr. Morrison, an evangelical Christian who has expressed admiration for President Trump, comes at a time of rising tension in the Asia-Pacific region. A trade war between the United States and China has forced longtime American allies like Australia to weigh security ties with Washington against trade ties with Beijing.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten had earlier conceded defeat as the coalition came close to a majority in the 151-seat House of Representatives, where parties need a majority to form a government.
The Liberal Party did suffer some setbacks. Tony Abbott, the divisive former prime minister, lost his race in a Sydney suburb, where voters demanded more action on climate change. He was one of several conservatives who had argued that most Australians were not willing to trade immediate needs for more distant global concerns.
“Im disappointed for people who depend upon Labor, but Im glad that we argued what was right, not what was easy,” Shorten told his 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 as prime minister 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.
Morrison had focused his campaigning on polling that showed while Labor was more popular than the government, the prime minister was more popular than Shorten. Morrison, a former tourism marketer, promised lower taxes and better economic management than Labor.
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 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.
Australian voters ultimately stuck with what they knew, while also tilting toward personality. They rejected policies that would have altered the financial status quo, including efforts to cut back on tax perks for older and wealthier voters, and went along with the more energetic politician.
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.