Australia’s Liberal National coalition government under Prime Minister Scott Morrison has won a historic victory, taking his party for a third term in government against all expectations.
It is still unknown if Morrison will form a majority or minority government, but swings to the coalition across large Australian states, especially Queensland, have ensured he will remain prime minister.
In a triumphant speech Saturday night, Morrison said he had “always believed in miracles.”
“And tonight we’ve been delivered another one,” he told jubilant supporters in Sydney who chanted Morrison’s nickname “ScoMo.”
After losing an election which many analysts described as “unlosable,” Labor leader Bill Shorten conceded and announced he would be stepping down as head of the party.
“I know that you’re all hurting, and I am too,” Shorten told party supporters in Melbourne. “I’m proud that we argued what was right, not what was easy … Politics should be the battle of ideas.”
The result will be devastating for the center-left Labor Party, which had been ahead in every opinion poll during the campaign and had expected to easily form a government after Saturday’s vote.
“This was the unlosable election for the Labor Party. That’s how this was considered,” ABC’s Patricia Karvelas said from the Melbourne Labor event.
Labor had run on a high-profile campaign of taking action on climate change, improving funding to services, and ending tax cuts for top earners.
With Shorten stepping down, his deputy Tanya Plibersek is a likely contender for the next Australian Labor Party leader.
“Up until today the expectation was that the labor leader Bill Shorten would become Australia’s next Prime Minister, those expectations have been dashed in the extreme,” political journalist Tom McIlroy of the Australian Financial Review told CNN.
“There hasn’t been a result like this in Australian politics in a generation.”
Victory for the ‘quiet Australians’
The Liberal National coalition was hit with some setbacks. Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who stayed in Parliament after losing the top job in 2015, lost his seat to former Olympian Zali Steggall.
“So, of course, it’s disappointing for us here in Warringah, but what matters is what’s best for the country,” Abbott said during a concession speech, Reuters reported. “And what’s best for the country is not so much who wins or loses Warringah, but who forms, or does not form, a government in Canberra.”
Meanwhile, controversial far-right lawmaker Fraser Anning lost his Queensland Senate seat. He fanned outrage in Australia by blaming Muslim immigration for the massacre at two New Zealand mosques in March.
Late Saturday, Morrison’s party was forecast to win at least 71 seats by the Australian Electoral Commission. But the Liberal Party leader will need 76 if he wants to form majority government.
Whether he’ll be able to do that is still unclear.
Speaking around midnight, Morrison thanked his family and the “quiet Australians” whose support he credited for his win.
“It’s Australians who have worked hard, started a business, started a family, bought a home,” he said to loud cheers. “These are the quiet Australians who have won a great victory tonight.”
Emeritus professor of politics at the Australian National University John Warhurst told CNN the result was a “repudiation of public opinion polls,” which time after time had written off the Liberal National government.
Morrison, who is a former immigration minister and Pentecostal Christian, campaigned to keep the economy strong, slash debt and reduce taxes across the board. That seemed to trump the Labor Party’s vows to tackle climate change, increase taxes on the wealthy and boost funding to schools and hospitals.
“It’s a credit to Scott Morrison as an effective campaigner,” Warhurst said. “The effective part of his campaign was to throw doubt into the minds of the Australian community about the cost of Labor’s proposals.”