Election Interpreter 2016
After eight weeks of campaigning, the Australian election is still not yet over. As the New York Times's Michelle Innis summarises:
As of Monday, neither the Liberal National coalition, led by Mr. Turnbull, nor the Labor Party, led by Mr. Shorten, had won enough seats to form a government outright.
Vote counting stopped in the early hours of Sunday with the governing coalition at 67 seats and the Labor Party at 71, the Electoral Commission said. If neither side can form a clear majority government, the party that secures the support of enough minor-party lawmakers to control at least 76 seats can form a government.
Innis also spoke to Bob Katter, one of the aforementioned 'minor-party lawmakers', about the increasing risk independents can pose to major party candidates:
'Australian voters are changing,' said Bob Katter, an independent member whose electorate covers about 193,000 square miles of central Queensland, an area double the size of Britain.
'In the past, I could run around and kiss babies and mouth party platitudes and expect to get re-elected,' Mr. Katter said in a telephone interview on Monday. But that was when he was a member of the National Party, he said, adding that now, candidates must be much more responsive to the needs of their constituents. Mr. Katter, the leader of Katter’s Australian Party, easily won his rural seat.
David Cameron’s legacy has transformed into a political parable surprisingly quickly, with The Times of London running the headline ‘You are Cameron of the southern hemisphere, battered Turnbull told’:
Malcolm Turnbull was told by his main rival to follow the British prime minister’s example and resign. Bill Shorten, the Labor leader, said that Mr Turnbull had lost his mandate to govern after the ruling coalition appeared to have fallen short of winning enough seats to secure a majority in parliament.
'He Brexited himself. This guy is like David Cameron of the southern hemisphere. He leads a divided party, he has had an election and he has delivered an inferior and unstable outcome,' Mr Shorten said.
The Times, the Financial Times and The Telegraph also noted the return of One Nation’s Pauline Hanson to the senate after 18 years in the political wilderness. From The Telegraph:
Switching her focus in recent years from attacking Asian migrants to condemning Muslims, she campaigned on plans to limit halal certification, restrict overall immigration and hold a 'royal commission into Islam'.
Famous for her claim in her maiden speech in 1996 that Australia was in danger of being 'swamped by Asians', she said during this campaign that 'we’re in danger of being swamped by Muslims' …
The 62-year-old former fish and chip shop owner served as a lower house MP from 1996 to 1998 and was later jailed for electoral fraud – the charges were eventually quashed – before making a comeback as a celebrity dancer on the television show Dancing With The Stars.
At the Wall Street Journal, Rob Taylor noted the impact another unpredictable senate could have on Australian economic progress:
Even though Mr. Turnbull’s Conservatives held a strong lower-house majority in the last Parliament, a hodgepodge of smaller parties and fringe parties advocating everything from souped-up cars to looser gun laws blocked legislation in the Senate, including cuts to health care and welfare spending and bills cracking down on worker unions.
Business leaders and economists say another volatile Senate risks hurting the country’s nascent transition away from mining investment to other sources of growth. Australia’s Senate is one of the world’s most powerful upper houses. Senators are able to amend or block legislation, including budget bills.
Finally, in The Straits Times in Singapore, Jonathan Pearlman analysed where Australian politics might go from here:
The precise makeup of the 150-member Lower House - which determines who forms government - remains uncertain. The ruling Coalition could yet win a slim majority but is expected to end up with fewer than 76 seats, which will leave it - or even Labor - scrambling for the support of the independents.
It is unlikely the parties will enter formal deals with the independents, who could agree to back the ruling party in no-confidence motions and crucial budget votes.
Nonetheless, the continuing confusion has led to speculation the Lower House may be unworkable and that another election may be required.
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