A truck sponsored by conservative lobby group Advance Australia shows Chinese President Xi Jinping casting a vote for the opposition Labor Party in Sydney, Saturday, April 9.

Xi Jinping looms large over Australia's election

Updated 9:00 PM ET, Sun May 15, 2022

Brisbane, Australia (CNN)The faces of Australian election candidates are plastered on campaign posters across the country -- but there's one face that stands out, and it belongs to Xi Jinping.

The Chinese leader, though not a participant in any modern democracy, has become a familiar presence in a campaign dogged by allegations of foreign interference and partly fought on issues of national security.
Xi's face is not only on billboards, his name has come up in press conferences, interviews, and election debates between Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who leads a Liberal-National coalition, and the Labor Party leader who wants to replace him, Anthony Albanese.
"Xi has changed the nature of the Chinese Communist Party ... It's more forward leaning. It's more aggressive. And that means that Australia, of course, must respond," said Albanese during a leaders' debate, in words that appeared to echo the government's hardline stance.
Before the federal election campaign even started, accusations were being hurled that China wanted a Labor win. One week out from the vote on May 21, public opinion polls -- though notoriously unreliable -- suggest that it may actually happen, putting a Labor government in power for the first time since 2013.