May 22, 2022 12:45:34 am
Anthony Albanese’s Labor Party defeated the ruling coalition led by Scott Morrison in Australia’s 2022 federal elections on Saturday (May 21). Morrison conceded, putting Labor in line to return to power after nearly a decade of Conservative rule, and setting Albanese up to become the 31st Prime Minister of Australia.
The Liberal-National coalition failed to win enough seats in the elections, and partial results late on Saturday evening (India time) showed they were punished by voters in Western Australia and the wealthier urban seats especially.
However, it remained unclear whether Labor would be able to secure a majority government, or would have to enter a coalition with independents and other parties.
To form a majority government, a party needs to win more than half of the 151 seats in the House of Representatives. Projections by The Guardian indicated that Labor had secured 71 seats, to the coalition’s 50. Independent candidates had won 7 seats.
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Anthony Albanese, likely next PM
The son of a single mother who grew up in single housing, Albanese will achieve the peak of his career, having been a Member of Parliament since 1996. Known as “Albo”, Albanese also had a brief stint as Deputy Prime Minister in 2013.
The Leader of Opposition since 2019, Albanese has for long been one the most prominent voices of the party’s left faction. However, for this election cycle, the Labor leader had softened his left-wing image. Albanese had based his campaign on modest policy proposals according to the BBC, and promised to improve Australia’s aged care sector, improve its manufacturing industry, provide cheaper childcare, and lessen the gender wage gap.
Issues: Climate, gender, cost of living
Climate change was one of most important concerns for Australians voters this election, especially after the catastrophic wildfires and floods recently. During the wildfires, Morrison was criticized by many for holidaying in Hawaii while fires ravaged the country.
Polls had consistently shown that voters had sought greater reduction in emissions. Both major political entities had promised net zero emissions by 2050; however, both continue to support the country’s mining industry, a key contributor to climate change.
Results indicated a strong performance by independent candidates whose campaigns heavily focused on more ambitious climate change solutions. Called the “teal independents”, they were a group of mostly women candidates who took on mostly male Liberal candidates in many of Australia’s wealthy electorates.
Teal independent candidate Allegra Spender secured the Wentworth seat by defeating the incumbent Dave Sharma, the Liberal MP and former ambassador to Israel.
The women’s vote also played an important role in determining who formed the government this year, with Morrison failing to connect with women. The Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham had told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that gender was “clearly a factor” in the election result.
The Liberal-National Coalition’s own tracking poll suggested that the incumbent Morrison was unpopular with women, as reported by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. His government was drawn into controversy in February 2021 after a number of women accused politicians of rape and sexual misconduct. Thousands of Australians took to the streets to protest against harassment and sexual assault of women.
The campaigns also focussed heavily on the growing cost of living, with polls suggesting that the rising price of fuel and electricity was a key issue for voters. Australia is experiencing its highest inflation rate in two decades. With stagnating wage growth in the country, the effects of economic inequality are growing more prominent. Studies by Bloomberg indicate that the top 20% of Australians have more than 90 times the wealth of the bottom 20%.
Albanese and India
Albanese had said on Wednesday (18 May) that if he wins the general election, he would travel to Tokyo for a meeting of the Quad group. He said, “the first thing I will be doing is meeting with our allies… Meeting with President Biden, meeting with Prime Minister Kishida, meeting with Narendra Modi next week — that is my priority.”
Albanese had said he would have himself sworn in as Prime Minister by Monday to attend the summit on Tuesday (23 May).
The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) is a strategic and security forum of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States that was initiated in 2007.
On Saturday, India’s Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra said that “a meeting with the new PM is expected to take place” at the Quad summit. “India, Australia strategic partnership has bipartisan support and the discussion between the two leaders will be forward leaning and how to build on it further”, he said.
The Australian High Commissioner to India, Barry O’Farrell, tweeted that Albanese has had longstanding ties with India. The likely new PM travelled in India as a backpacker in 1991, and had led a parliamentary delegation to New Delhi in 2018, O’Farrell said.
The High Commissioner tweeted that Albanese in his election campaign had “committed to deepen economic, strategic and people-to-people links” between the two countries.
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