CANBERRA, Australia, July 2 (UPI) — Australia’s national election was too close to call early Sunday with more than 96 percent of the votes counted and the government in risk of a hung Parliament.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the leader of the conservative Liberal-National coalition, is seeking to keep his job as Bill Shorten, who heads the center-left Labor Party, is challenging.
With 96.65 percent of the votes counted in Saturday’s election, Turnbull’s Liberal-National coalition was ahead in 67 seats and the Labor Party has 71, according to the Australian Election Commission. Seven seats are not decided and other parties/independents hold five.
Final results were not expected until Tuesday, after mail-in ballots and early voting were counted.
For a majority, 76 seats are needed. In the previous election, the coalition had 90. If either party doesn’t receive enough votes, support would be needed from other parties/independents.
“I can report that, based on the advice I have from the party officials, we can have every confidence that we will form a coalition majority government in the next Parliament,” Turnbull said after midnight local time in addressing supporters in Sydney. “And certainly we are the only parties that have the ability or the possibility of doing that.”
Addressing supporters in Melbourne, Shorten declared “the Labor Party is back.”
“Three years after the Liberals came to power in a landslide they have lost their mandate,” he said.
“Whatever happens next week Mr. Turnbull will never be able to claim that the people of Australia have adopted his ideological agenda.”
Shorten sought support from those from other parties/independents.
That includes Sen. Nick Xenophon, whose newly formed political party took a lower house South Australian seat, formerly a safe Liberal seat.
Minor parties already hold the power in the 76-seat Senate.
“The prime minister keeps calling for stability, but stability comes from conversation. I don’t want anyone to have the power to just push things through,” said Robert Watkins, 37, a publishing worker who voted for independent Nick Xenophon in Sydney, told The Wall Street Journal.
Voting closed in Western Australia two hours after the eastern states finished voting. More than 10 people cast ballots in person on top of 4 million early voters.
The national two-party count was split nationwide with 50.07 percent favoring the coalition and 49.93 the coalition.
Turnbull, who ousted Tony Abbott 10 months ago, called for an early election in seeking a new mandate.
Great Britain’s unexpected vote to leave the European Union is leading to a worldwide anti-establishment sentiment.
“This is not a time to make a protest vote,” Turnbull said Friday. “I’m asking every Australian to vote for stable coalition majority government, to vote for the national economic plan.”
An exit poll by Sky News showed healthcare spending was the most important issue for 72 percent of voters.
Turnbull noted Labor and the union movement spent millions of dollars frightening Australians regarding Medicare funding. He called it the “most systematic, well-funded lies ever peddled in Australia.”
On election day, Australians received text messages purporting to be from Medicare, warning of Turnbull’s plans to privatize the system.