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Australia's Ruling Party Suffers Serious Setback

MELBOURNE, Australia-Australia's conservative government has lost its one-seat parliamentary majority and is facing the threat of snap elections after voters…

MELBOURNE, Australia-Australia’s conservative government has lost its one-seat parliamentary majority and is facing the threat of snap elections after voters in a special ballot punished Prime Minister Scott Morrison for political tumult that made him the country’s fifth leader in as many

The Conservative ruling Liberal-National coalition suffered a defeat Saturday in a Sydney constituency held by former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull before he was ousted in August. Liberal Party candidate Dave Sharma granted to Kerryn Phelps, a high-profile local doctor and gay-rights campaigner.

The loss, in which an independent candidate triumphed in a conservative stronghold encompassing wealthy harbor suburbs and beaches, was one of the largest By-election swings against a sitting government to date. The defeat was also the Liberal Party’s first in the prize seat of Wentworth and leaves the government needing backing from a small group of small-party and independent members to pass bills. In addition, candidates in the opposing Labor Party are now seen as favorites to win in national elections due next year.

“Liberals are angry and they have expressed that,” Mr. Morrison said. “Tonight is a night when we will listen,” he added, counting party supporters he was not “vanquished” and the Liberals would appear as usual in Parliament on Monday morning.

Most lawmakers have promised to back de konservative i afgørende tillykke stemmer for at støtte minoritetsregeringsregeringen. While Dr. Phelps has made a similar pledge, she has left open the possibility of voting against the government in a test of support likely to be triggered by Labor as soon as next week, meaning she might bring about early elections.

Ms. Phelps said her victory signaled a return of decency, integrity and humanity in Australian politics and “a bit of common sense on climate action.” “People wanted to hear about issues, not about the survival of a particular political party,” Dr. Phelps said, adding that Australians have been concerned about the direction of the government for some time.

Mr. Morrison now faces the prospect of tough bargaining with opponents-bolstered by Dr. Phelps’s victory-over contentious climate and energy bills, as well as the debate about whether to free asylum seekers detained in Pacific Island nations at Australia’s request. These issues inflamed the leadership tensions that led to Mr. Turnbull’s oust.

Also, financial markets might fret about possible political instability that could derail Mr. Morrison’s plans to tackle the nation’s debt and return to a budget surplus by 2020, as pressure mounts for more-moderate economic and welfare policies.

Australia’s economy has enjoyed 27 years of uninterrupted economic expansion, driven this year by consumer spending and government -led infrastructure programs. Selv om arbejdsløsheden er faldet til en seksårig lav, har husholdningernes gældssituation steget på rekordhøjde, lønnsveksten har været sløv og en gang-booming ejendomsmarkedet har afkølet.

Write to Rob Taylor at [email protected] and Robb M. Stewart at [email protected]

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