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Abbott to be new Australian PM after landslide win

© AFP

Video by Marc EDWARDS

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-09-07

Conservative Tony Abbott romped home in Australia’s national election Saturday, bringing an end to six years of Labor rule. Abbott’s Liberal-National coalition was set to win 91 seats and the Labor party just 54, according to official results.

Australia's conservative opposition led by Tony Abbott swept to victory in the country's general election on Saturday, defeating incumbent Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and ending six years of Labor Party rule.

With more than 90 percent of votes counted late Saturday night, official figures from the Australian Electoral Commission put the Liberal-National coalition on course to win 91 seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives, and Labor just 54.

After calling Abbot to concede defeat, Rudd said in a speech to his supporters that he took responsibility for the loss, while also confirming he was stepping down as party leader.

“I know that Labor hearts are heavy across the nation tonight, and as your prime minister and as your parliamentary leader of the great Australian Labor Party, I accept responsibility,” he said.

“I gave it my all, but it was not enough for us to win.”

Several senior Labor figures had already conceded defeat to Abbott earlier on Saturday evening as results flooded in. With 13 percent of the vote counted, Defence Minister Stephen Smith told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC): “The government will be defeated tonight.”

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek conceded defeat shortly afterwards, telling ABC that her government’s loss was no longer in doubt.

“I am a cautious person by nature, but I think that it’s pretty clear it’s a matter of the size of the victory” she said.

Abbott benefits from Labor instability

Abbott, who becomes Australia’s third prime minister in three months, will aim to end a period of extraordinary political instability in Australia.

The swing away from Labor was a resounding rejection of Australia’s first minority government since World War II. Voters disliked the deals and compromises struck between Labor, the minor Greens party and independent lawmakers to keep their fragile, disparate and sometimes chaotic coalition together for the past three years.

Labor’s in-fighting may also have weighed in the minds of voters, with the party only recently emerging from a longstanding power struggle between Rudd and his former deputy, Julia Gillard.

Gillard, who became the nation’s first female prime minister after ousting Rudd in a party vote in 2010, ended up losing her job to Rudd three years later in a similar internal party coup.

There is unlikely to be any honeymoon period for Abbott, however, as he inherits a slowing economy, hurt by the cooling of a mining boom that kept the resource-rich nation out of recession during the global financial crisis.

Australia’s new government has promised to slash foreign aid spending as it concentrates on returning the budget to surplus. Labor spent billions of dollars on stimulus projects to avoid recession. But declining corporate tax revenues from the mining slowdown forced them to break a promise to return the budget to surplus in the last fiscal year.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s election could have brought Australia’s first Aboriginal woman to Parliament. Former Olympian Nova Peris is almost certain to win a Senate seat for Labor in the Northern Territory, though the final results will not be known for days. Less likely is WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s bid for a Senate seat in Victorian state.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-09-07

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