CANBERRA, Australia — The two political leaders vying to become Australia's next prime minister meet Wednesday with three key independent lawmakers to discuss who best can provide stable leadership after weekend elections that failed to deliver a winner.
Neither Prime Minister Julia Gillard nor opposition leader Tony Abbott can form a government without the support of independents because no major party won an outright majority of 76 seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives.
The kingmaker independents — Bob Katter, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott — held a strategy meeting in Parliament House on Wednesday morning before they were to meet Gillard then Abbott for confidential negotiations.
The independents have promised to support whoever best offers stable government, but say a final deal cannot be struck until after the election's final vote count, which is not expected for several days.
The election results have ignited bitter recriminations within the ruling Labor Party over how they could become Australia's first government in almost 70 years to be thrown out of power after a single three-year-term.