Voters head to polls open in close-run Australian election | Elections News

Sydney, Australia – Polls have opened in the Australian election, with a close competition expected between Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s incumbent Liberal-National coalition and the opposition Labor party under Anthony Albanese .

Labor has led opinion polls throughout the six-week campaign, but the gap has narrowed with Morrison’s coalition winning the position before election day.

Morrison is aiming to become the first Prime Minister to win two consecutive elections since John Howard in 2004.

Voting is compulsory in Australia and just over 17.2 million people are registered to vote under the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).

A record number of voters cast their ballots at early voting centers or via postal ballots, and more than half of all ballots were cast Friday night, according to the commission. Polls close nationally at 6pm, which is 8:00 GMT in Sydney and 10:00 GMT on the west coast. Results could be known as early as Saturday evening.

Polls are shrinking and the emergence of independent candidate raised the possibility of a suspended parliament.

Labor or the Liberal-National coalition requires 76 seats in the lower house to form a government, less than anything, and they will need to negotiate with smaller parties and independents to try to form a minority government.

Australia uses a preferential voting system instead of a simple majority employed in countries such as the UK and USA, and voters rank their candidate choices on the ballot.

A man wearing a wetsuit and surfboard joins the voting line at a polling station in Bondi Beach
A strong showing for independent parties could lead to a hung parliament, amid dissatisfaction with the major parties’ positions on climate change. [Mark Baker/AP Photo]

The campaign has focused a lot on cost of living increaseswith Australia experiencing its highest inflation rate in 21 years and the central bank raising interest rates for the first time since 2010.

Morrison has argued that his handling of the economy is a key reason for voters to back him again, given the record low unemployment rate.

He is also proposing a plan to allow young people early access to their retirement funds to help them buy their first property.

Care about the future

Labor, meanwhile, has hit the government’s economic record, highlighting that wages are not rising fast enough to meet rising costs of living.

Brian Silver, a Sydney voting teacher told Al Jazeera: “As a recent grandpa, I worry about future generations and the economic policies of the major parties not addressing that issue. .

The rising cost of living is affecting all areas of life, with voters concerned about the impact on their daily spending.

“Child care is a key issue for me. I really need it, I need to know it’s available but it’s so expensive,” Lauren, who only wanted to share her name, said outside a polling station in North Sydney.

Australians also expressed growing concern about climate change.

The country has seen its effects first-hand, with Morrison’s time in charge dominated by extreme bushfires between 2019-20 and recent major flooding in Queensland and the New South. Wales.

Many of the independent candidates in the election campaigned solely on the basis of climate change, offering different solutions to the problem than the two major parties.

“Climate change is something we really need to consider, especially with the introduction of electric cars into Australia. We need to absorb them quickly and we need to create charging stations. That’s something the government can do,” Tim, who just wanted to share his name, told Al Jazeera ahead of the vote in North Sydney.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese hugs a dog and laughs as he meets supporters outside a Melbourne polling station in M
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese (centre) hopes voters will back Labor to form a government for the first time since 2013 [Wendell Teodoro/AFP]

A large number of independents are running for seats in the tradition of the Liberal Party, with popular and well-funded campaigns to raise their profile.

“I’m voting for independence here, Kylea Tink,” explains Katie Archer, a North Sydney voter.

“I really like her policies when it comes to climate change, I think she’s really progressive. While Scott Morrison, it always felt like he was taking care of himself and his own back, not putting the population first.”

Attitudes and policies towards Indigenous peoples are also on the agenda at this election, with Aboriginal groups continuing to demand land rights and being recognized as the nation’s firsts in the constitution. France.

It’s an issue that could add to the disparity between the two main parties.

“While both the Liberal and Labor Parties point to each other as to who does the least for First Nation people, smaller parties such as The Greens and Australia’s newly formed Indigenous Party are making political decisions. More tangible-realistic books and solutions for making change to our most marginalized and downtrodden Indigenous activist Lynda-June Coe said.

On the eve of the election, several prominent Australian newspapers endorsed Morrison or Albanese.

The right-wing and business press were more supportive of Morrison and his Liberal-National coalition, with both The Australian and The Australian Financial Review calling for re-election as Prime Minister, with the latter describing him as ‘ Australia’s best. Betting’.

Meanwhile, The Age newspaper, based in Melbourne’s second largest city, backed Labor in an editorial titled; ‘For the sake of integrity, Australia needs a change of government’.

The Sydney Morning Herald, its sister publication, also backed Albanese, saying ‘on balance, the nation needs to change’.

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