Sunday, August 22, 2010

No Hanging Chads, but Trouble in Oz!

Aussies woke Sunday morning to the prospect of a hung parliament for the first time since World War 2.  The election was held on Saturday and as an outsider, it's been a fascinating campaign to watch.

The Aussie election system is made up of a Senate and House of Representatives. Aussies don't directly elect their prime minister. Instead, the PM is the leader of the party with a majority of seats in the House of Representatives. As a rough comparison, in the States this would make Nancy Pelosi the President.

There are several parties in Australian politics. The Labor Party is currently in power and Julia Gillard is the Prime Minister. She took power in June when the prior PM, Kevin Rudd, was ousted by his own party!  The Labor party had swept into power in 2007 with a large majority, but was unable to capitalize on a strong economy.  The Labor party could be characterized as center-left.

The opposition party is the Liberal/National Coalition. Technically, this is two parties, but on a national level they always vote together. The leader of the opposition is Tony Abbott.  The Coalition is center-right.

Other minor parties include the Greens, an environmental/socially progressive party, and the Family First Party. The Greens are hoping for their first Representative seat in this election.

Aussies use full preferential voting.  When Aussies go to the polls, they rank candidates in their order of preference. If no candidate receives a majority of first preference votes, the candidate with the least number of first preference votes is dropped and those ballots are recounted using the second preference. Since this is a close election, results may take awhile to determine the final makeup of the House and the corresponding PM.

As of Sunday morning, the Coalition has a 72-70 lead over the Labor Party in the House.  There are 3-4 independents and 1 Green that were elected.  The rest of the seats are still undecided.  76 seats are needed for a majority in a House and neither party looks like they will reach that mark.  The remaining seats will be decided this week, then both leaders will try and woo the independents to try and create a majority.  This result seems to be a major rebuke of the Labor party and a "win" for the Coalition.

Stay tuned!

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