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Australia’s Nationalist Party Sputters in State Race


Australia's One Nation party leader Senator Pauline Hanson is pictured at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, Feb. 13, 2017.

The rapid resurgence of nationalist politics in Australia was abruptly halted Saturday after Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party drew less than 5 percent of the vote and was set to win one seat in a state poll.

The election in mineral-rich Western Australia was won convincingly by the center-left Labor party, leaving Hanson’s right wing, anti-immigration party trailing far behind.

The vote was the first major test of popularity for Hanson since winning a place in the federal parliament last year, when she rode a wave of anti-establishment sentiment similar to that seen in the United States and Europe.

Deal flops

Before the vote, the governing Liberal party ditched its traditional allies to strike a deal with Hanson’s party to swap preferences, a measure in Australia’s voting system designed to help both parties increase their presence in the new parliament.

The deal appears to have backfired, with Hanson losing some of her anti-establishment fervor and the state Liberals putting off their center-right base.

Hanson, who is wary of foreign investment and wants to suspend Muslim immigration, said late Saturday the deal was a mistake.

Asset sales off

The election result has ended plans for several asset sales that Labor campaigned against, including a proposal to sell a majority stake in the A$15 billion ($11.3 billion) Western Power electricity grid along with privatization of the $1.5 billion Fremantle Port.

Labor has won the vote decisively by an anticipated 40 seats to the Liberals 19, and will govern without needing a coalition partner.

The result will also see mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton escape a state tax on their iron ore businesses proposed by the rural-centric National Party, which fell short of obtaining the influence to force such a measure.

Outgoing Liberal Premier Colin Barnett was the country’s longest serving political leader, having seen four changes of Prime Minister during his tenure.

His federal counterpart, Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, rejected suggestions his own performance had contributed to the election defeat.

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