Here are the latest returns from Australia’s August 21 election. Unexpectedly—as Glenn Reynolds would say—the Coalition headed by the (conservative) Liberal party has overtaken the ruling Labour party by a 44%-38% margin. However, it looks like that will not translate into a Coalition government, with Liberal leader Tony Abbott as prime minister. The Coalition is listed with 72 seats to Labour’s 70, with 3 seats still unreported and 76 seats required for a majority. One reason Labour may be winning more seats than its proportion of the vote suggests is Australia’s second-choice system: if voters choose the Green candidate as their first choice and Labour as second choice, then if the Green doesn’t have enough votes to win, her or his vote is added to the Labour total.
This result looks like a repudiation of the Labour party, which replaced Liberal Prime Minister John Howard after his 11 years in office. The election was called hastily by Labour Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who replaced the ousted Labour Prime Minister Kevin Rudd just a few weeks ago. Rudd failed to get global warming legislation through the Australian Senate and then proposed a 30% tax on mineral production, one of Australia’s major industries.
Australia becomes the second Anglosphere democracy to reject a Labour government and replace it with a coalition (though which party will head it is unclear) this year; British voters ousted the Labour party and elected a hung Parliament which produced the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition headed by Conservative party leader David Cameron in May. Canada has had a minority Conservative government headed by Conservative party leader Stephen Harper since February 2006; his party increased its strength in Parliament in the October 2008 election. If Tony Abbott becomes Prime Minister of Australia, that would leave the United States as the odd man out in the major Anglosphere democracies, since Barack Obama’s term in office continues until January 2013. Of course there is the possibility that Republicans will win a majority in the House and possibly even the Senate next November. Looking like a trend?