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Conservatives Sweep to Another Win in Australian National Elections - 2004-10-09

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has led his Liberal Party to a fourth consecutive win in parliamentary elections.

During the campaign, all indications were that this race would be extremely close. It has not worked out that way, with the conservative government now expected to significantly increase its parliamentary majority.

With some results still to come, the opposition leader Mark Latham has admitted defeat. He said his party had run a decent and honest campaign, and he congratulated his rival Mr. Howard.

Mr. Latham also hinted to party workers in Sydney that he would return to contest another election.

"In a democracy, it's the best note on which I should finish is to thank the Australian people, all those who've spoken to me directly or I've been able to speak to through the media," said Mark Latham. "Thank you very much and I'll see you again."

Australia's involvement in Iraq was an important issue. The debate over the future of 850 Australian troops has been divisive, with Mr. Latham vowing to bring them home by the end of this year if he won.

Many Australians are worried about the deployment, but appear to accept Mr. Howard's view that the soldiers should stay in Iraq until their job is done.

Mr. Howard is at 65 years of age, a seasoned political warrior. His campaign for re-election was based on his successful management of the economy and strong leadership in matters of defense and national security. His opponent, the combative and colorful Mr. Latham, had presented himself as a youthful and more energetic alternative to Mr. Howard in an election fought largely over domestic concerns.

Mr. Howard has presided over a period of great prosperity, and voters appear to have thought Labor's Mark Latham was too inexperienced and could jeopardize the country's booming economic performance.

Mr. Howard's government will now serve for the next three years.