Make-or-break for Aus­tralian pre­mier

Em­bat­tled Lib­eral govern­ment faces crit­i­cal week­end by-elec­tion

Global Times US Edition - - WORLD -

Aus­tralia’s em­bat­tled cen­ter-right govern­ment faces a make-or-break test this week­end, with by-elec­tion vot­ers in Syd­ney’s wealthy beach­side sub­urbs ap­par­ently poised to wipe out Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son’s slen­der par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity.

Polls show the govern­ment los­ing in Went­worth on Satur­day and with it their one-seat par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity, in what has been de­scribed as the most con­se­quen­tial by-elec­tion in mod­ern Aus­tralian his­tory.

De­feat in the once safe Lib­eral seat would be a huge em­bar­rass­ment for Mor­ri­son – whose two-month ten­ure as prime min­is­ter has been marked by cri­sis and party in­fight­ing – and would send him limp­ing into next year’s gen­eral elec­tion.

The sprawl­ing con­stituency takes in the fa­mous Bondi Beach and the haunts of stars like Rus­sell Crowe and Hugh Jack­man.

“It could not come at a worst time for Scott Mor­ri­son be­cause some­times even win­ning a by-elec­tion might not be enough for a new leader – you have to win it con­vinc­ingly,” pol­i­tics ex­pert Nick Economou of Monash Univer­sity told AFP.

An­a­lysts be­lieve a loss and a mi­nor­ity govern­ment would de­rail the Lib­er­als’ leg­isla­tive agenda, make Mor­ri­son a vir­tual lame duck prime min­is­ter and per­haps even trig­ger a vote of no con­fi­dence in his premier­ship.

The by-elec­tion was trig­gered by the res­ig­na­tion of Mal­colm Turn­bull as an MP af­ter he was turfed out of the prime min­is­ter­ship in a party coup, de­spite calls for him to stay on and not jeop­ar­dize the coali­tion’s hold on power.

“Since the Turn­bull demise, they have re­ally been crum­bling be­fore our eyes. They are aban­don­ing poli­cies left, right and cen­ter. A reshuf­fle has left them all at sea. Is­sues that they were strong on they’ve lost their way on,” said Economou.

Mor­ri­son has in­vested heav­ily in the vote, ap­pear­ing mul­ti­ple times on the stump with Lib­eral can­di­date Dave Sharma and up­end­ing decades of Aus­tralian for­eign pol­icy in a des­per­ate bid to woo Went­worth’s Jewish vot­ers.

Mor­ri­son floated the idea of mov­ing the Aus­tralian em­bassy in Is­rael from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move that prompted Pales­tinian anger and in­fu­ri­ated Aus­tralia’s Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity neigh­bor In­done­sia.

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