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Minor Parties Surge as Australia Awaits Election Result

  • Phil Mercer

Voters fill in their ballots at a polling station at Town Hall in Sydney on July 2, 2016.

Voters fill in their ballots at a polling station at Town Hall in Sydney on July 2, 2016.

Election officials in Australia are counting millions of postal and absentee votes in the country's national election. Neither of the two main parties has managed to secure a majority in Saturday’s poll, in which there was a surge in support for minor parties and independent candidates.

Waiting for results

Four days after the election, Australians have little idea who will form their next government. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he is confident his center-right party will win a majority, while the opposition Labor party hopes to form a minority government with the help of minor parties and independents. They have been the big winners in this election so far.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (r) addresses party supporters as his family listen from his side during a rally in Sydney on July 3, 2016, following a general election.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (r) addresses party supporters as his family listen from his side during a rally in Sydney on July 3, 2016, following a general election.

Among them is controversial campaigner Pauline Hanson, who wants to stop Muslim immigration into Australia. She has won a seat in the upper house and says many Australians also feel squeezed out by migrants from Asia.

One Nation Party

“They feel they have been swamped by Asians and regardless of that now, a lot of Australians feel that Asians are buying up prime agricultural land, housing. You don't keep putting up Mosques, and it is not me, it is our society that actually are on the streets protesting against the building of mosques," she stated. "You cannot deny the fact is in these mosques they have been known to preach hate towards us.”

Hanson said her One Nation Party, which could gain two more Senate seats, is standing up for those voters who feel marginalized and ignored by the two major parties.

FILE - One Nation Party founder and Senate candidate Pauline Hanson (L) is pictured as she campaigns at a shopping arcade in the suburbs of Sydney on August 14, 2013.

FILE - One Nation Party founder and Senate candidate Pauline Hanson (L) is pictured as she campaigns at a shopping arcade in the suburbs of Sydney on August 14, 2013.

John Waner, a professor of politics at Australian National University, said Hanson's success is not just about race.

“[There are] still pockets of a kind of anxiety and she is kind of feeding on that. The anxiety's about loss of manufacturing jobs, loss of traditional work opportunities, higher areas of unemployment, regions that feel they've been left behind. And then some are also concerned about immigration,” Waner said.

Minor parties and independent candidates have attracted record support in this election. They may be a disparate bunch, who variously support tough anti-gambling policies, banning the burqa in public places and voluntary euthanasia, but their supporters believe they are free of what newspapers here have described as the “all-consuming narcissism” of the main parties.

A final election result is expected in the coming days.

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