Australia still hanging for election results

Three
independent MPs who may hold the balance of power following Saturday’s
inconclusive election in Australia say they will negotiate as a bloc.

With
some votes still to be counted, both the ruling Labour party and the opposition
conservative coalition appear to have fallen short of the 76 seats needed for a
majority.

Australia
has not elected a hung parliament since 1940.

The
latest figures from Australian public broadcaster ABC give Labour 72 seats and
the coalition 69 seats. The Greens secured one seat and independents won three.
Five seats have not yet been called.

Both
Prime Minister Julia Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott have in Canberra
working to try to secure a majority. Both have opened talks with the
independents.

Attention
is focusing on three independent MPs – Bob Katter, Tony Windsor and Rob
Oakeshott – who represent rural and regional constituencies.

Mr
Oakeshott said the trio would stand “shoulder to shoulder” during the
negotiating process, so they did not “get picked off by political
interests and vested interests”.

Another
independent, Andrew Wilkie, looks on course to win the Tasmanian seat of
Denison, while Adam Bandt secured one seat for the Greens.

The
election came two months after Ms Gillard ousted Kevin Rudd in a controversial
leadership challenge.

Ms
Gillard, a former lawyer who called a snap election shortly after coming to
office, was hoping to be rewarded for the government’s handling of the economy,
which weathered the global recession remarkably well.

But
support for Australia’s first female prime minister has fallen in the two
months she has been in office.

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