Australia Election Live Updates: What to Look For


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Australians are heading to the polls on Saturday to choose a new government in a contest being called everything from a “climate change election” to a “stability election.”

The two candidates at the top of the major-party tickets are both well known to Australians and, according to polls, not much beloved. Those polls indicate the race is close, though the prime minister has been trailing.

Bill Shorten, 52, the leader of the center-left Labor Party, ran a campaign focused on making the government more interventionist — not necessarily in the sense of spending, but on behalf of workers, by aiming to lift wages and close tax loopholes benefiting investors and wealthy retirees.

Scott Morrison, 51, the prime minister, leads the center-right Liberal Party, which has been in power since 2013. He has emphasized stability, arguing that a victory by Labor would lead to economic chaos and, possibly, the first recession in 27 years. Damien Cave

On their ballot sheets voters will see candidates from a confounding number of minor parties with agendas such as internet activism, vaccine opposition, marijuana legalization and even xenophobia. And some have a decent chance of getting into Parliament.

Since 1918, the country has employed a preferential voting system: Voters rank the candidates they prefer from most to least, rather than simply checking a box for their first preference.

Candidates must get more than 50 percent of the total vote to be elected to the House of Representatives, where the majority party forms a government. To achieve this, candidates with the fewest votes are eliminated and the votes on those ballots are redistributed according to preference, a process that is repeated until a winner is produced.

In the Senate, candidates must receive a certain proportion of votes to be elected.

The system is designed to make sure that votes are not wasted, but it has also given minor parties more footing, experts say. Some have struck back-room deals with major parties that agree to give them preference in their “how to vote” guides.

While election analysts say that new rules adopted in 2016 may lead to a winnowing of these fringe players, some are still likely to be elected to the Senate through “protest” votes against the major parties. In the House of Representatives, the race seems likely to be close, meaning major parties are relying on their preference choices of minor groups to get them over the line.

What it all adds up to: If Australia ends up with a minority government, a conservative coalition might find itself beholden to populists and xenophobes, and a Labor coalition might have to make nice with marijuana legalizers and anti-vaxxers. — Livia Albeck-Ripka

The forced departure of Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister in August 2018 has had repercussions for his center-right Liberal Party that are likely to be felt in several races on Saturday.

The seat Mr. Turnbull vacated in Wentworth was won in a by-election in October by an independent, Kerryn Phelps. She is now in a tough rematch with the Liberal candidate she defeated, Dave Sharma.

The swing in votes to the independent was largely viewed as a result of voters’ annoyance with the Liberal Party for its treatment of Mr. Turnbull. Now that the anger has subsided, many Liberal voters are expected to return to the fold.

Another candidate who lost his job as a Liberal prime minister, Tony Abbott, is facing a strong challenge for his seat in Warringah by Zali Steggall, a lawyer and Australia’s only Olympic medalist in Alpine skiing, who is running as an independent.

Ms. Steggall has described Mr. Abbott as a “massive hand brake on our policies on climate.” Mr. Abbott helped complicate Mr. Turnbull’s efforts to find consensus on energy policy, helping to bring about his ouster.

Peter Dutton, who led the revolt against Mr. Turnbull last year, is in a tight race in his electorate, Dickson, against the Labor candidate, Ali France. Mr. Dutton is deeply unpopular as the country’s top immigration official for appearing to issue visas on a subjective basis. — Jamie Tarabay

On the island of Tasmania, a few races may signal the ultimate outcome of the federal election.

Two seats, in Braddon and Bass, are seen as “volatile” since no party has been able to hold on to them for long. In the last national election, in 2016, the Liberal Party lost those two seats and a third one in Tasmania. The fate of Labor Party candidates in Tasmania may be a national bellwether.

Another Tasmanian race worth paying attention to is the one in Clark, where an independent, Andrew Wilkie, has held the seat since wresting it from the Labor Party in 2010.

Mr. Wilkie is a former intelligence officer who quit in protest over Australia’s decision to join the United States in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. If he wins, he is likely to have a significant role in the next government if neither the Labor Party nor the conservative coalition of the Liberal and National parties garners enough votes to govern alone. — Jamie Tarabay

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