Australians caste votes in close-run election

On Saturday, Australians voted in a national election, with opinion polls showing the opposition Labor Party marginally ahead of the ruling conservative coalition, despite the possibility of a hung parliament due to a strong showing by climate-focused independents.

After nine years in opposition, Labor had a comfortable advantage coming into the campaign, but recent polls showed Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Liberal-National coalition closing the gap in the final weeks of a grueling six-week campaign.

On election day, a Newspoll poll published by The Australian newspaper showed Labor’s advantage against the ruling coalition slipping a point to 53-47 on a two-party preferred basis, roughly in line with earlier election surveys.

At 6 p.m., in-person voting will cease at polling booths in suburban schools, seashore pavilions, and outback halls (0800 GMT).

After completing whistle-stop tours throughout marginal districts in the closing two days of a campaign driven by growing living expenses, climate change, and integrity, Morrison and opposition leader Anthony Albanese cast their ballots late in the morning in Sydney.

“Today, Australians are making a significant decision about their future,” Morrison said outside the polling station. “Australia requires someone who knows how to handle money, deal with national security concerns, and move forward while maintaining a robust economy.”

Albanese claims that Australians desire a change of administration, claiming that the current one has “nothing to be proud of.”

“I’ve gotten us to the point where we’re at least competitive today. We’re on the lookout, “Albanese commented about his election chances.

“I want to kick with the wind at my back in the fourth quarter, and I feel we have the wind at our back,” he remarked, referring to Australian Rules football, the country’s most popular sport.

Morrison made the country’s lowest unemployment in nearly half a century the centerpiece of his campaign’s final hours, as Labor focused on soaring inflation and weak wage growth. Inflation has outpaced wage growth, putting real income in the negative.

Several “teal independents” are targeting crucial Liberal-held seats, pushing for action on climate change in the aftermath of some of Australia’s worst floods and fires.

Three teal independent Monique Ryan volunteers said they joined Ryan’s campaign because they are concerned about the climate for the benefit of their children or grandkids, who are running against Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in the long-held Liberal seat of Kooyong in Melbourne.

“This election feels promising to me,” Charlotte Forwood, a working mother of three adult children, told the press.

The Liberal-National alliance held 76 of the 151 lower house seats in the previous parliament, while Labor held 68, with seven minor party and independent members.

Voting is mandatory, and preliminary results should be available by Saturday evening, however the Australian Electoral Commission has warned that if the race is tight, a clear winner may not emerge quickly due to the time necessary to tally nearly 3 million postal ballots.

By Friday evening, more than half of the ballots had been cast, including a record 8 million early in-person and postal votes, according to the commission.

Because of the two-hour time difference between the east and west coasts, polling centres in Western Australia will remain open while early results come in from the populous east coast states, which hold 124 of the 151 seats in the lower house.

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