SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison conceded defeat and the opposition Labor Party was set to end almost a decade of conservative rule after an election on Saturday.
“Tonight, I have spoken to the leader of the opposition and the incoming prime minister, Anthony Albanese. And I’ve congratulated him on his election victory this evening,” Morrison said, adding he was stepping down as leader of his party.
“I think people have had enough of division, what they want is to come together as a nation and I intend to lead that,” Albanese said.
“While it’s mathematically possible that we win in Kooyong, it’s definitely difficult,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who was poised to become one of the highest-ranking cabinet ministers ever to be voted out of parliament.
THE NEXT PRIME MINISTER
* Albanese is a pragmatic leader from a working-class background who has pledged to end divisions in the country.
The House of Representatives has 151 seats, 76 of which are needed for a majority to form the government.
With 55% of the vote counted, Labor had 72 seats, the coalition 52 while independents and the Greens held 11, the Australian Broadcasting Corp projected. A further 16 seats remained in doubt.
There are 76 senate seats; 12 for each of the six states and two each for two territories. There are 40 seats up for election: six from each state and the four territory seats.
FACTBOX: Australia’s democracy
* Challenges ahead for the winner include inflation, which is at two-decade highs and picking up pace, interest rates that have just started rising for the first time in more than 11 years, while pandemic spending portends massive budget deficits in the years ahead. But unemployment is its lowest in almost 50 years, and global prices for Australian commodities are sky-high.
* The major parties have a tricky path. People say they want action on climate, but are not always keen to pay for it. And in an election in which cost of living has been a central issue, retail power prices are a factor.
FOREIGN POLICY* Foreign policy became an unlikely election issue after Morrison sought to trumpet his national security credentials and claim Labor was not up to the job, only to be undercut by the Solomon Islands signing a security pact with China.
* Morrison had promised a change in his style of governing, conceding he had been a “bit of a bulldozer”, after his personality became an electoral liability.
* Albanese has offered an alternative based on his working-class roots and pragmatic style.
(Reporting by John Mair; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Frances Kerry)