Why Australia loses prime ministers
L’instabilité gouvernementale australienne expliquée.
Depuis le 24 août dernier, l’Australie a un nouveau Premier ministre en la personne de Scott Morrison. Il succède à Malcolm Turnbull, victime d’un « putsch » à l’intérieur de son propre parti. Scott Morrison est le septième Premier ministre que connaît le pays en onze ans... Comment expliquer cette instabilité politique chronique dans ce pays ?
In the quarter of a century to 2007, Australia had three prime ministers. Since then not a single one has survived a full three-year term. First went Kevin Rudd, a Labor leader who was replaced by his deputy, Julia Gillard, in 2010. When her popularity plummeted, he knifed her in return but lost a general election shortly after. That led to the installation of Tony Abbott, a hardline conservative, as prime minister in 2013. But he lasted only until 2015 before being toppled by the more moderate Malcolm Turnbull. [In August], following a coup fomented by Mr Abbott’s hard-right bloc, Mr Turnbull lost his job. Scott Morrison, the former treasurer, is now prime minister. That brings the total to six in 11 prosperous years. Why does Australia keep losing leaders?
2. Its politicians can replace their bosses in a vote by party MPs known as a leadership “spill”. These can happen quickly and brutally, with the winner requiring just 50% of the vote. Spills were rare before this century, so some ascribe their increasing popularity to a modern preoccupation with opinion polls and popularity. Parties often bet that replacing a prime minister will boost support before the next election. A series of weak leaders, nursing personal vendettas, has only added to the problem. “We’ve set a precedent,” observes Michael Fullilove of the Lowy Institute, a think-tank. “We are waiting for a prime minister who can break it.”
THE PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM
3. Other causes relate to the peculiarities of Australia’s parliamentary system. First, its three-year electoral cycle is among the shortest anywhere in the world. Prime ministers are barely sworn in before parties start thinking about the next election. Second, the Australian senate is one of the world’s most powerful. It can neuter governments that do not control it, and not many governments do. The
“We are waiting for a prime minister who can break it.”
New Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, left, is congratulated by the Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove, August 2018.
Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during a final press conference, August 2018.