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Australian election is set to be closest in decades

Australian election analysts are forecasting the closest contest in decades, and say 'grumpy' voters may produce Australia’s first hung parliament since 1940.

Overseas Australians wait to vote in the Australian elections to find a new Prime Minister, at Australia House in London Friday. Voting in the country's general election starts Saturday.

Lewis Whyld/AP

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Six months ago, the Australian Labor Party was basking in popularity and Kevin Rudd’s government seemed headed for an easy election win. Now his successor, Julia Gillard, will count herself lucky to scrape back into power with a tiny majority in Saturday’s federal election.

Most recent opinion polls have Labor and the opposition coalition – the conservative Liberal Party and its rural-based ally, the National Party – neck and neck. Political analysts are forecasting the closest contest in decades, and say there is a real prospect of Australia’s first hung parliament since 1940.

Prime Minister Gillard agrees the election is “an absolute cliffhanger,” and she and the coalition leader, Tony Abbott, have spent the final days of the campaign blitzing the marginal constituencies in New South Wales and Queensland states that are expected to determine the outcome.

In the latter, the government is braced for a backlash from voters angry about the way Mr. Rudd, a Queenslander, was deposed in June by Ms. Gillard, amid Labor alarm about his plunging poll ratings.


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