Elections in Australia: What to Watch

Australians go to the polls on Saturday to choose the government as their nation, emerging from two years of Covid-driven isolation, facing rising inflation, persistent fears about climate change and challenges. foreign policy is growing.

After nine years in power, the Conservative coalition – now led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison – is locked in a tight race with Labor and its leader, Anthony Albanese.

With few major differences on policy or dramatic proposals, the election is seen as a referendum on Mr Morrison’s character and performance during his term. He sought to emphasize his steady management of the economy and Australia’s swift response to Covid, while his opponents pointed out that he failed to keep affordable housing, His absence from the 2020 wildfires and avoidance of climate change policy, and his partisan approach to politics, have alienated many women.

Growing support for small parties and a new wave of independent candidates, mostly women, who are campaigning for stronger action on climate change and the joint anti-corruption committee. states, could lead to a minority government that could take several days of negotiations to form. But Labor has been building momentum, and is increasingly confident of a clear victory.

Australia has managed the pandemic relatively well, keep the number of deaths per capita low by closing international and national borders while distributing wages to workers, businesses, and the healthcare system. Now that the country is highly vaccinated and reopened, the government’s job over the next few years will be involved in shaping the recovery.

Mr Morrison, 54, has argued now is not the time to switch to a Labor government. “It’s not just about who’s going to make things better, and I believe we can,” he said last week. “But it’s also the person who can make them worse.”

To increase its chances, the conservative coalition made Commitments worth $2 billion for energy and infrastructure projects, along with smaller local projects such as sports facilities.

Mr Albanese, 59, has promised to invest in roads and transport, stressing that Labor will do more for the “care economy”, which includes childcare workers, educators and staff nursing home staff. Facilities for the elderly who are in difficulty report of treatment invalidation and distress.

Labor has also promised to increase funding for universities, which falls outside the union’s Covid support plan. And although it has not ruled out investing in coalLabor said it would move faster to reduce carbon emissions and tackle climate change.

Australia’s emissions reduction target for 2030 – 26% above 2005 levels – has been described by other world leaders as a disappointment. That’s half of what the US and UK promised.

But whoever wins the election will not only have to manage domestic concerns and international pressures about climate change. Australia also faces an increasingly complex security environment.

Its relationship with China has been icy at least since 2017, when Australia passed foreign interference laws and China responded with a ban on imports of wine, beef and other products. other from Australia. Beijing has also infiltrated the Pacific islands, Australia’s traditional sphere of influence, with Solomon Islands signs secret security agreement with China last month.

This will be one of the issues discussed at the next meeting of the Quartet – Japan, the US, India and Australia – scheduled to take place in Tokyo on May 24, three days after the election. Australian election.

There is not much distance between the two sides on the challenge China presents or on Australia’s push for a stronger alliance with the United States.

Mr Albanese took over as Labor leader following the party’s 2019 election defeat and he is known to be a quieter, more cooperative boss brand than his predecessor Bill Shorten.

He was raised in a public service home by a single mother and has often said that she instilled in him a passion for three great faiths: the Catholic Church, the Australian Labor Party and South Sydney Rugby, the football team. your local oval.

He was elected to Parliament in 1996, becoming deputy prime minister in 2013 with a Labor government led by Kevin Rudd.

Despite all of his time in power, Mr Albanese remained relatively unknown to most Australians until recently. As opposition leader and candidate, he formulated a “small-goal” approach, made some bold policy statements and sought to minimize Lao differences. working with the coalition on traditionally hot-button issues such as taxes.

Mr Albanese’s attempt to get voters to focus on Mr Morrison ran into stumbling blocks at first, with the Labor leader receiving some scrutiny near the official start of the campaign. But he has found his place in a number of debates, in which he has focused on wage increases and other traditional Labor issues while standing for the more combative position of prime minister.

Mr. Morrison has led the Australian government – a coalition of Liberal and National parties – since 2018. An ardent campaigner has presented himself as the leader for “quiet Australians” who want to. With a steady hand on the economic wheel, he had a reputation for being a moderate earlier in his career. But as prime minister, he often favors the more conservative side of Australian politics, particularly on climate change.

Like Mr Albanese, he’s a devoted rugby fan, growing up in Sydney – in his case in the more affluent eastern suburbs, where his father was a policeman and member of the guild. city ​​council.

After working as chief marketing officer for Tourism Australia, he joined Parliament in 2007, representing several suburbs in Sydney’s southeast corner.

He rose rapidly to become immigration and border protection minister in Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s government, where he oversaw a tough approach to asylum seekers – with boats blocked by the military. Australia turned away and the refugees were detained offshore.

He served as treasurer under Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, until he took power in 2018 after an internal coup led by members against Mr Turnbull’s moderate stance on climate change and other issues. Start up.

At the national level, voter surveys show Australians are most concerned about inflation and the cost of living, particularly exorbitant housing prices in Sydney, Melbourne and other major cities.

In most of the country’s middle-class districts, economic issues prevail, but in some constituencies that can determine which party wins, there are two other electoral dynamics at play.

In the wealthier boroughs around Sydney and Melbourne, a number of independent candidates – mostly professional women – are challenging the Liberal incumbents with campaigns focused on transformative solutions. climate change, gender equality and a return to citizenship to politics.

And in less urban areas, the election is happening more about culture wars and identity issues. Mr Morrison has selected a candidate who has campaigned against allowing transgender women to play women’s sports, and he has at times made the issue a focus of his campaign. his candidacy.

“There are three campaigns underway,” said Peter Lewis, a pollster and chief executive officer of Essential, a progressive media and research company. “You’ve got a cultural election, an economic election and post-materialist “-focus on quality of life –” elections and all of them are taking place in different parts of Australia. ”

The latest voter surveys show Labor leads by a few points. Mr Morrison’s approval rating has been falling for months, and neither he nor Mr Albanese have attracted enthusiastic support. Voters indicated they were more dissatisfied than satisfied with both.

Election forecasts in Australia are notoriously unreliable. The country has mandatory and preferential voting, allowing people to rank their choices and a large group of voters to decide at the last second. By some numbers, a quarter of all voters are still uncertain or unsure of their final choice.

In 2019, polls showed Labor had a slight edge – but Mr Morrison and his coalition secured an uncomfortable victory.

This time around, analysts say there’s a high chance of a hanged Parliament, with neither the coalition nor Labor winning the 76 seats needed to form a government.

If that happens, minor parties like the Greens on the left or One Nation on the right – or several independents, if they win – could be the kings of deciding Australia’s next government. which way to go.

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