Australia hung parliament ‘more and more likely’: officials

SYDNEY, August 21, 2010 (AFP) – Australia faced the “more and more likely” prospect of a hung parliament Saturday, with neither the government nor the opposition looking assured of an election majority, party officials said. Australia has not had a hung parliament since 1940, in the midst of World War II, but the election was going down to the wire with the conservative opposition just edging past the government in the vote count.

“I think a hung parliament is looking more and more likely,” said Senator Nick Minchin, one of the opposition Liberal/National coalition’s top strategists, after one of the tightest elections in living memory.

“I can’t yet find the 17 needed by the coalition,” he said, referring to the number of extra seats it needs to win to secure a majority in the 150-seat parliament.

The country’s first woman prime minister Julia Gillard and her Labor party battled opposition leader Tony Abbott’s conservative coalition in a razor-edge poll.

Four hours after voting ended, the ABC said Abbott’s party held 71 seats to the government’s 69.

To rule in its own right, the government needs to snag at least 76 seats in the lower house of parliament.

But the state broadcaster said