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Election count underway in Australia with top parties neck and neck

Leaders of the major parties have each promised to bring stability to a government long mired in chaos.

3a640e7bd24c4bddb7138752272cdf90 (File photo) Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, left, and opposition leader Bill Shorten shake hands. Source: AP

POLLS CLOSED ACROSS Australia on Saturday with early counting of results from the general election suggesting the ruling conservative party is at risk of losing several seats as it seeks a second term after a divisive first three years in power.

Following years of political turmoil, leaders of the major parties have each promised to bring stability to a government long mired in chaos.

The elections, which pit the conservative coalition government against the center-left Labor Party, cap an extraordinarily volatile period in the nation’s politics.

Australian political parties can change their leaders under certain conditions and have done so in recent years with unprecedented frequency. Should Labor win, its leader, Bill Shorten, would become Australia’s fifth prime minister in three years.

72f26da9723b42c2af5cb3b5dbb718b1 Australia's opposition leader Bill Shorten, right, and his wife, Chloe, cast their votes in the federal election. Source: AP

Early returns showed Labor and the Liberal Party-led coalition in a virtual dead heat.

“I think the early signs are good for us,” Labor’s deputy leader Tanya Plibersek told Australia’s Seven Network.

Whether they’re good enough for us to form government we won’t know for hours or possibly days.

Instability

A Newspoll published in The Australian newspaper on Saturday showed the coalition leading by 50.5% to Labor’s 49.5%.

The Newspoll was based on nationwide interviews with 4,135 voters conducted between Tuesday and Friday, and has a 3 percentage point margin of error.

The so-called revolving-door prime ministership, coupled with global instability wrought by Britain’s recent vote to leave the European Union, prompted promises by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that sticking with the status quo was the safer choice.

“In an uncertain world, Labor offers only greater uncertainty,” Turnbull warned in one of his final pitches to voters this week.

They have nothing to say about jobs, growth or our economic future.

df936b1be99d4316bd33cdb0b1fe69dc Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks to the media during his visit to a small business factory in the western suburbs of Sydney yesterday. Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS/AP

Labor, meanwhile, has sought throughout the eight-week campaign to cast Turnbull’s Liberal Party as deeply divided, with Shorten saying:

You cannot have stability without unity.

Selling stability is a tough job for either party, both of which have been marred by infighting in recent years.

d5a3e51f21f04efb9540461de6962f04 Bill Shorten answers questions during a breakfast show television interview earlier today in Sydney. Source: AP

Shorten played a key role in ousting two of the Labor Party’s own prime ministers in the space of three years, and Turnbull himself ousted Tony Abbott as prime minister in an internal party showdown less than a year ago.

Tight race

Up until 2007, conservative John Howard served as prime minister for nearly 12 years.

Though the race is tight, polls suggest that Labor won’t be able to gain the 21 seats it needs to form a majority government in the 150-seat House of Representatives. Labor currently holds 55 seats, the conservative coalition has 90, and minor parties and independents have five.

61b3e5e5c3e240c8bb4e1a897841a190 Source: AP

Polls have also shown that the public’s frustration with Labor and the coalition may prompt an unusually high number of votes for minor parties, such as the Greens.

That raises the prospect that neither Labor nor the coalition will end up with enough seats to win an outright majority, resulting in a hung parliament.

The government has focused much of its campaign on a promise to generate jobs and economic growth through tax cuts to big businesses.

Economic growth is a key issue for many Australians, who have seen thousands of jobs vanish from the country’s once-booming resources sector amid China’s industrial slowdown.

Labor has said it will keep the higher tax rates and use the revenue to better fund schools and hospitals.

Read: Brexit’s even affecting the Australian elections this Sunday

Read: Australians can vote for the Sex Party, Hemp Party and Smokers’ Rights Party in this week’s election

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Associated Press

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