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Australian leaders vie for independents' support

By the CNN Wire Staff
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard speaks to the media at Treasury Place on August 22, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard speaks to the media at Treasury Place on August 22, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Australia's prime minister and the opposition leader both say they're talking with independents
  • Election results are still being tallied
  • If no party wins 76 seats, Australia could end up with its first hung parliament since 1940

Sydney, Australia (CNN) -- With no clear winner emerging from a cliff-hanger national election, Australian political leaders jostled for support from a handful of independent lawmakers Sunday.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she was speaking with independents in an effort to build a minority government. Opposition leader Tony Abbott also told reporters he had spoken with independent lawmakers.

Results were still being tallied by Australian elections officials Sunday. Analysts have predicted both parties will fall short of securing the 76 seats needed to win, meaning Australia could end up with its first hung parliament since 1940.

The tight election results mean a handful of independent lawmakers will likely play a key role in shaping the country's government.

Gillard, the head of the country's Labor Party, stressed that her discussions with independent and Greens Party lawmakers were preliminary.

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"It's my intention to negotiate in good faith an effective agreement to form government," she said.

But Abbott told reporters Sunday that a Labor government would be dysfunctional.

"I think that the public expects a change of government as a result of yesterday's result," he said.

With 78 percent of the votes counted, Labor was leading slightly with 50.6 percent of the vote, while Abbott's Liberal-National coalition had 49.3 percent, according to results posted online by the Australian Electoral Commission.

Abbott leads the Liberal Party, which is nevertheless conservative and forms a center-right coalition with The Nationals. A fourth party, The Greens, is much smaller and has strong environmental ethos.

The two main parties have no massive ideological differences. Instead, many saw the election as a chance for voters to pass judgment on Labor's ouster of Kevin Rudd, who once enjoyed some of the highest popularity ratings of any Australian leader.

Rudd's poll numbers took a hit after he placed his proposed carbon emissions trading plan on the back burner and introduced a 40 percent tax on the country's powerful and wealthy mining industry.

That prompted many in his party to doubt whether he could lead the party to victory in the election, so Rudd stepped aside in June.

CNN's Kylie Grey and Dan Rivers contributed to this report.

 
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