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Conservatives Celebrate after Historic Election Win in Australia - 2004-10-10


Australia's conservative prime minister, John Howard, is celebrating a decisive victory over the Labor Party in general elections.

In his victory speech in front of hundreds of supporters at a hotel in Sydney, Prime Minister John Howard says winning a fourth consecutive term in office is a great honor.

"My fellow Australians, can I say, first of all, I am truly humbled by this extraordinary expression of confidence in the leadership of this great nation," he said.

Mr. Howard's conservatives won easily. It is the first time since the 1960s that an incumbent government has increased its majority in two consecutive elections.

While it has been a historic weekend for the Conservative Party, it has been a disastrous one for the opposition Labor Party and its inexperienced leader, Mark Latham.

Analysts say Labor's strategy was to position Mr. Latham as a younger, fresher alternative to Mr. Howard, but the gamble clearly did not pay off.

Mr. Howard based his bid for re-election on a booming economy and decisive leadership in troubled times. Iraq was an important campaign issue, and the prime minister's re-election ensures that Australian troops will stay on indefinitely.

The opposition promised that, if elected, their government would bring troops home by the end of the year.

Mr. Howard is now on course to become the country's second-longest-serving prime minister, after Sir Robert Menzies, who spent 17 years in office.

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