Australian Capital Territory’s Election Set to Come Down to the Wire

Australian Associated Press is an Australian news agency.
October 16, 2020Updated: October 16, 2020

A few thousand votes will determine whether Labor achieves a sixth successive election victory in the ACT or the Canberra Liberals end 19 years in the wilderness.

More than 70 percent of Canberrans were expected to have cast an early vote or applied for a postal ballot before Saturday’s poll.

That leaves around 90,000 voters turning up to 82 ballot places on election day.

This weekend marks 19 years in office for Labor, with three leaders over the period.

But ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr – the second-longest serving political leader in the country – says there has been no shortage of renewal or added accountability despite Labor’s longevity in power.

Eight of the 12 Labor members were elected at the last poll in 2016 and there have been a number of measures put in place to add scrutiny, including an integrity commission and campaign spending caps.

Labor has governed in minority with the Greens for all but one of the terms, in 2004.

Both major parties have been campaigning on broadly similar platforms, promising better efforts on health, education, the environment and transport.

The assembly numbers are currently 12 Labor, 11 Liberal and two Greens across the five electorates of five members each.

At the 2016 election, Labor received a tick more than 38 percent of the primary vote, while the Liberals scored just less than 37 percent and the Greens 10.3 percent.

Alistair Coe, who has led the Liberals since soon after the 2016 election loss, is attempting to bring his party back from the wilderness to become the ACT’s fourth Liberal chief minister.

Coe has spent the past week launching a series of stunts for social media including donning boxing gloves, mirroring a tactic used by the UK’s Boris Johnson.

The Liberals’ performance will largely hang on the success of conservative-leaning minor parties.

Two members are retiring at the poll – Liberal veteran Vicki Dunne and the Greens’ Caroline Le Couteur.

Two other changes have occurred since the 2016 election – Liberal Steve Doszpot died in 2017 and was replaced by Candice Burch, while Labor’s Meegan Fitzharris resigned in 2019, replaced by Deepak-Raj Gupta.

The electorates of Ginninderra and Murrumbidgee will be the most closely watched.

Paul Osborne in Canberra