Gillard tries to form coalition

Australian PM asks independents to save government after close election.

August 22, 2010 09:26
1 minute read.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, right, leader of the Australian Labor Party, smiles with he

julia gillard and bf 311. (photo credit: AP)

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she started negotiating with independent lawmakers Sunday in a bid to cling to power because no major party won a majority of parliamentary seats in Australia's general elections.

Gillard said she hoped to enlist support for her center-left Labor Party and has held preliminary talks with three independents in the House of Representatives, an independent candidate whose seat is not yet assured and a lawmaker from the Greens party.

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Both the center-left Labor, which had ruled for the past three years, and the conservative Liberal Party-led coalition opposition have conceded that neither is likely to claim the 76 seats needed to form government in the 150-seat House of Representatives.

"It is clear that neither party has earned the right to government in its own right," Gillard told reporters. "It's my intention to negotiate in good faith an effective agreement to form government."

An Australian government has not had to rely on the support of independent lawmakers to rule since 1942.

The election results were expected to be the closest since 1961, when a Liberal government retained power with a single seat.

With 78 percent of the vote counted, the Australian Electoral Commission said Labor had won 70 seats — one less than earlier calculated — and the coalition 71. Most analysts agree that the coalition was likely to finish with 73 — a single seat advantage over Labor.

Analyst Norman Abjorensen, an Australian National University political scientist, said the most likely outcome would be an unstable minority government under Liberal leader Tony Abbott and supported by three independents.

Abbott argues that he deserves to lead because his coalition attracted more votes than Labor.

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