Government takes early lead in Australia’s election count


SYDNEY (Reuters) – Early counting in Australia’s national election showed a small swing to the governing Liberal-led conservative coalition, running counter to pre-election opinion polls and setting the stage for a tight contest on Saturday night.

The coalition is leading the national two-party count against center-left Labor by 51.7% to 48.3% with just over 15% of the vote counted, according to Australian Electoral Commission data (AEC).

The early results contrast with pre-election polls, which had predicted Labor would win, and mean a winner may not be known on Saturday.

The vote trend, however, is not uniform, and vote-counting on the country’s west coast has not started.

The Scott Morrison-led government is polling strongly in Queensland and Tasmania, according to AEC figures, although the early results are more mixed in the heavily populated states of New South Wales and Victoria.

Former conservative prime minister Tony Abbott is at dire risk of losing his Sydney beaches seat of Warringah to high-profile independent Zali Steggall. Media analysts projected the seat had been lost with more than one-fifth of the votes counted.

The major parties are vying for a majority share of the 151 lower-house seats to form a government.

There are also 40 of 76 Senate spots contested in the election, the outcome of which will determine how difficult it will be for the next government to enact policy.

Reporting by Jonathan Barrett, John Mair, Swati Pandey, Colin Packham and Lidia Kelly; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien, Paul Tait and Gerry Doyle

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