Australia’s indecisive election highlights govt instability
CANBERRA, Australia—Australia’s prime minister promised to stabilize a government long steeped in chaos. Instead, his gamble to call an early election highlighted the instability, with the result too close to call and the nation facing the grim prospect of a hung parliament.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he remained “quietly confident” his conservative Liberal Party-led coalition would emerge victorious. But that confidence conflicts with early results showing Turnbull’s party losing a swathe of seats in the House of Representatives — which determines who governs the country.
“Australians seek greater certainty, greater clarity, stability in their government,” Turnbull told reporters on Sunday. “While the count will take a number of days, probably until the end of next week, I can promise all Australians that we will dedicate our efforts to ensuring that the state of the new parliament is resolved without division or rancor.”
Delivering a unified government may be tough. With around 30 percent of ballots cast Saturday left to be counted, neither the coalition nor the opposition center-left Labor Party had gained the required 76 seats in the 150-seat House to form a government. Turnbull was pinning his hopes on mail-in and early ballots that traditionally favor the conservatives.
The likeliest scenarios point to a slim coalition victory or a dreaded hung parliament, which could prompt yet another election. Turnbull and opposition leader Bill Shorten both have contacted the five independent lawmakers who could be called on to support a minority government. If no alliance can be forged, the government could end up calling another election, though Turnbull did not directly say if he considered that an option.
“We are committed to ensuring that the parliament, as elected, will work effectively and constructively for the Australian people,” Turnbull said. Shorten, who surprised most analysts by rallying a higher than expected number of voters to his Labor Party, accused Turnbull of failing to deliver on his promise of a united government. “It is pretty ironic — last week, Mr. Turnbull was promising rock-solid guarantees of stability,” Shorten said. The uncertainty is troublesome, with Turnbull acknowledging he was worried that any perception of instability while the vote was sorted out could harm Australia’s triple-A credit rating.
Business leaders described the unresolved election as the worst possible outcome and urged the parties and independents to act quickly to form a government. Economist Stephen Koukoulas, managing director of Market Economics, said markets would not like the uncertainty when they open on Monday after the global instability that followed Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.—AP