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Australian Election Hangover

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Australian Election Hangover

Phew… what a night

It began as most elections do, with a clear objective of electing a winner but somehow, that doesn’t seemed to have happened..!

So what went wrong?

Well for a start, neither party campaigned strongly enough to persuade the electorate of their merits and in so doing, allowed their opponents to prosper.

That aside, the real reason for the dilemma we now find ourselves facing, is due to the AEC (Australian Electoral Commission) and their legislated procedures.

It all starts with this notion of TPP (Two Party Preferred) where following the full allocation of preference votes, it is possible to derive a two-party-preferred figure, with the votes being divided between the two main candidates in the election. TPP yields a result that approximates the final outcome give or take a few percent BUT it does it in real time which makes it great for television and the electorate. Essentially we get a result by the end of the evening and we all know where we stand by the time we wake up the following morning.

It still takes the AEC another two weeks or so to ACTUALLY count all the votes including postal, those in detention, overseas, military, etc but these votes represent a very small percent and generally do not change the results significantly and hence are purely academic and can be done ‘after the fact’.

So what happens when the two parties poll neck and neck and amass almost exactly the same amount of seats, as has happened in these Australian 2010 elections? Quite obviously a few postal votes NOW make a significant difference to the outcome and are not merely academic in nature. So we wait for the AEC to do what it does and deliver its findings. So will we then have a winner? err… NO.

Because both parties amassed nearly half of the available vote (approx. 47.5% each), neither has enough to declare a majority vote (leaving us with a hung parliament) and so must rely on collecting further votes from the remaining candidates (in our case the Greens and Independents). These remaining candidates are just 6 men and are essentially all from different or independent parties with little or no allegiance to any other party (except the Green who has chucked his hand in with the Labor Party).

So let the ‘horse trading’ begin. The two major parties must individually try and sweet talk at least 3 of the 5 remaining independent candidates so as to grasp the majority vote and the right to form a government. But being Independents’ there is no collective voice and hence each candidate has to be coerced separately but neither Independent will play out his hand until the other Independents have played theirs, as it puts him in a much stronger bargaining position. Hence we can expect deals, counter deals, reneging on deals and the like, before we finally get a majority and finally get a government. You’d be forgiven for thinking that that’s the end of it but alas… NO.

Being that the ‘victor’ would be governing over a hung parliament with the absolute narrowest of margins, all its going to take is for one member to ‘cross over’ or for some form of dissent to be seen in one member and a vote of ‘no confidence’ will be tabled by the opposition party. This will surely carry, bringing the government down and forcing us all back to the ballot boxes… precisely where we were on Saturday!

So the aftermath of this election has been the hangover to beat all hangovers: it’s still going on today and you can expect it to continue for another week or so in it’s current form or until the AEC is finished what it does; it should abate somewhat after that while the horse trading continues to its natural conclusion; then you can expect a small reprieve while we let the new government find its feet; but it’ll start throbbing again at the first sign of dissent within the ranks; and will only end with another all night party in preparation for the ensuing election, where we’ll get to do it all over again!

So next time either don’t hold elections (not really possible) or do hold elections but elect a party by a resounding majority. Anything else and you can expect another Australian Election Hangover.

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One Response

  1. Time will tell if we go back to the ballot box and then again, if we end up with another stale mate! I shall keep an eye out for developments on this front. This is a test ‘back link’.

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