Labor Anthony Albanese previously backed move to remove Queen as head of state in
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Republican Anthony Albanese has triumphed at the Australian election after he vowed to tackle the cost of living crisis with more public spending. 

Albanese has long been a republican who believes the Queen should not be the head of state in Australia and in 2018 said the country should hold a national vote on becoming a republic. 

However, the Labor party manifesto did not include any plans for a referendum on republicanism and the party has not announced any plans to do so – meaning the status quo will remain.

Former PM Malcolm Turnbull led a failed republican campaign during a national referendum on the issue in 1999. 

The opposition Labor Party appeared more likely than Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s coalition to form government after Australia’s election on Saturday that could result in a rare hung parliament.

Center-left Labor could still form a majority government, based on early vote counting, lawmakers and analysts said. But the coalition’s only hope was to form a minority administration in a hung parliament.

“The coalition can’t get there in its own right, no,” former Defense Minister Chris Pyne, who retired from Parliament in the last election, told Seven Network.

The government was seeking a fourth three-year term.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese’s party ended the six-week campaign as a favorite to win its first election since 2007. But Morrison defied the opinion polls in 2019 by leading his coalition to a narrow victory.

His coalition holds the narrowest of majorities – 76 seats in the 151-member House of Representatives, where parties need a majority to form a government.

Minor parties and independents appeared to be taking votes from the major parties, which increases the likelihood of a hung parliament and a minority government.

Australia most recent hung parliaments were from 2010-13, and during World War II.

A record proportion of postal votes because of the pandemic, which won’t be added to the count until Sunday, adds to the uncertainty in early counting.

As well as campaigning against Labor, Morrison’s conservative Liberal Party is fighting off a new challenge from so-called teal independent candidates to key government lawmakers’ reelection in party strongholds.

One of them is Zali Steggall, who won a seat from the Liberal Party in 2019 when she ousted former Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

She appeared likely to retain her Sydney seat by a larger margin.

“The feedback very much was people are really frustrated,” Steggal told Australian Broadcasting Corp. “Cost of living issues but also climate change simply did not feature in the policies and platforms from the major parties.”

The teal independents are marketed as a greener shade than the Liberal Party’s traditional blue color and want stronger government action on reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions than either the government or Labor are proposing.

Liberal Party deputy leader Josh Frydenberg, a contender to replace Morrison, and his colleague Trent Zimmermanm appeared to have been beaten by teal candidates.

The goverment’s Senate leader Simon Birmingham was concerned by big swings toward several teal candidates.

“It is a clear problem that we are losing seats that are heartland seats, that have defined the Liberal Party for generations,” Birmingham said.

“If we lose those seats – it is not certain that we will – but there is clearly a big movement against us and there is clearly a big message in it,” Birmingham added.

The first polling stations closed on the country’s east coast at 6 p.m. (0800 GMT). The west coast is two hours behind.

Due to the pandemic, around half of Australia’s 17 million electors have voted early or applied for postal votes, which will likely slow the count.

Voting is compulsory for adult citizens and 92% of registered voters cast ballots at the last election.

Early polling for reasons of travel or work began two weeks ago and the Australian Electoral Commission will continue collecting postal votes for another two weeks.

The government changed regulations on Friday to enable people recently infected with COVID-19 to vote over the phone.

Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers said more than 7,000 polling stations opened as planned and on time across Australia despite 15% of polling staff falling sick this week with COVID-19 and flu.

Albanese said he had thought Morrison would have called the election last weekend because Australia’s prime minister is expected at a Tokyo summit on Tuesday with U.S. President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“If we get a clear outcome today then whoever is prime minister will be on a plane to Tokyo on Monday, which isn’t ideal, I’ve got to say, immediately after a campaign,” Albanese said.

Analysts have said that Morrison left the election until the latest date available to him to give himself more time to reduce Labor’s lead in opinion polls.

AP-WF-05-21-22 1134GMT

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