- Scott Morrison, Australia’s conservative prime minister, pulled off a shock defeat in Australia’s national election Saturday.
- The victory defied scores of polls and drew marked similarities to the rise of populist support for fiery conservative candidates across the world.
- Reports said support for the conservative came from outer suburban seats with demographics similar to America’s rural rust belt.
- The victory signals a continued foothold for the troubled conservative party, for which Morrison ran on a message of economic security and development.
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Scott Morrison, Australia’s conservative prime minister, pulled off a shock defeat in Australia’s national election Saturday, defying scores of polls that predicted a victory
“I have always believed in miracles,” Mr. Morrison said at his victory party. “Tonight is about every single Australian who depends on their government to put them first. And that is exactly what we are going to do.”
The final result of the election may not be known until late Saturday, Morrison’s coalition won more than 70% of the 74 seats of the 76 needed for a majority, with Labor on just 66 seats.
However, the win by Morrison, who has been friendly with President Donald Trump, signals a swell of populist voters that mirrors similar rises in the UK and America.
A significant block of voter support for Morrison came from outer suburban seats with demographics that closely resemble America’s Rust Belt, according to Reuters. Taking office in August, Morrison became the became Australia’s fifth prime minister in five years, and the latest figure at the front of the country’s tense politics.
Both parties have called for stability amid turbulent national politics
The country’s conservative party has been at the center of swelling tensions in national politics with its hawkish stances on immigration and atmosphere of sexism that has alienated women, who have fled in droves from the party.
Despite the recent controversies, Morrison’s victory secures a continuing foothold for conservative politicians on the national stage.
Morrison pushed the party’s economic and immigration policies while seeking re-election, while his opponent, the Labor Party’s Bill Shorten, presented a vision that included addressing climate change and developing federal interventions into the economy.
These proposals were painted by Morrison as costly and threatening to the country’s economic success, comments that came just over a year after he brought a lump of coal to Parliament to voice his support for industry and rail against what he called “coal-o-phobia.”
Though the country saw carbon emissions fall while the economy grew under a carbon tax passed in 2011, Liberals repealed the tax in 2014 and haven’t offered a comprehensive legislative solution for the environment since.
Shorten also voiced suspicions of Trump and the US that were pushed aside by Morrison’s lively and often combative campaign that drew marked similarities to Trump’s campaign for the 2016 US presidential election.
Morrison’s victory speech had a similarly strong call for support for working-class Australians “who have worked hard every day, they have their dreams, they have their aspirations, to get a job, to get an apprenticeship, to start a business, to meet someone amazing.”
Emphasizing industry, Morrison championed his mission to support Australians’ potential “To start a family, to buy a home, to work hard and provide the best you can for your kids. To save for your retirement.”
He continued, calling his supporters “the quiet Australians.”
Some have pointed to Saturday’s surprise results as another part of the populist wave sweeping international politics.
“I think people have become afraid after a very negative campaign,” Labor supporter Julie Nelson told Reuters at the party’s Melbourne election night function. “They [the Liberals] managed to convince people they should be afraid of change.”
Susan Harris-Rimmer, a law professor at Griffith University in Queensland, told the New York Times that politics had reached a new, “absurd” normal.
“It just seems like it’s been a long time since politics was normal anywhere,” Harris-Rimmer said.
Morrison’s unexpected victory doesn’t exactly spell a certain future for conservative control of the country, as it’s still unclear if politicians close to Morrison can pass policy with an outright majority or will need to court independents for support.