Australians are voting Saturday in national elections that are expected to return conservatives to power and end the Labor Party’s six-year government leadership.
The latest public-opinion polls showed Tony Abbott’s opposition Liberal-National Party running ahead of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s Labor Party.
On the last day of campaigning on Friday, Rudd urged Australians not to count him out and said he can still win on election day.
“According to the polls out today, we’ve got about three [percentage] points to make up. And what I know about Australians is, there’s a whole bunch of people who don’t sort out which way they’re going to vote until the day itself,” said Rudd.
The election comes just three months after Rudd ousted Australia’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, in a party leadership challenge to try to help position Labor better for a national vote.
The national campaign has been dominated by concerns about the economy, asylum seekers and climate change.
Unemployment in Australia has been creeping upwards, and both parties have tried to convince voters that they can guarantee future economic prosperity.
Both candidates also have proposed tough immigration policies to discourage asylum seekers from sailing into Australian waters to claim shelter.
Abbott has promised that his government’s first action will be to repeal an unpopular tax on the country’s biggest polluters, which he blames for pushing up domestic power bills.
Voting in Australia is compulsory. More than 14 million people are listed on electoral rolls, but authorities estimate about a half-million 18- to 24-year-old Australians have never registered to vote, suggesting widespread apathy among young people about domestic politics. VOA