Fri | Jan 19, 2018

Turnbull claims election win, but questions remain

Published:Monday | July 11, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks at the government offices in Sydney, Australia, on Sunday.


Eight days after Australia's general election ended in uncertainty, the prime minister finally claimed victory on Sunday for his conservative coalition, bringing an end to the country's political paralysis - at least, for the moment.

Though the question of who won the July 2 election was answered, the question of exactly how the conservatives will rule the fractured parliament was not. With official results still days or even weeks away, it was unclear whether Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's Liberal Party-led coalition had won enough votes to govern in its own right, or whether it would need the support of independent and minor party lawmakers to form a minority government.

Either way, Turnbull faces a rough road ahead with a divided party, a splintered senate, and a politically weary public that has endured five changes of prime minister in as many years.

Though millions of votes still need to be counted, there was no way for the opposition centre-left Labour party to win a majority of seats in the House of Representatives. That prompted opposition leader Bill Shorten to formally concede the race on Sunday, which, in turn, triggered Turnbull to announce that the coalition had won a second three-year term.

"We have resolved this election and done so peacefully," Turnbull told reporters.


Yet the election was not entirely resolved. Parties are required to hold at least 76 seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives to form a majority government, and the coalition has not yet reached that number. With around a quarter of the votes still left to be counted, the Australian Electoral Commission said the coalition was leading in 74 seats, the centre-left Labour party in 71 seats and minor parties and independents in five.

Either the coalition will form a majority government by a slim margin, or the country will have a hung parliament. If that happens, Turnbull's coalition will forge an alliance with independent and minor party lawmakers to form a minority government. Three independent lawmakers have already pledged their support to the coalition if such a situation arises.

Asked whether he thought his party would win a majority, Turnbull replied simply, "We've won the election." The result has raised the prospect that Turnbull could face a leadership challenge from colleagues unhappy with the party's weak showing.