In Australia, the eagerly awaited general election has begun. According to the latest polls, a tight race between the top candidates is emerging: incumbent Prime Minister Scott Morrison (54) ran for the conservative Liberals, while Anthony Albanese (59) from the Social Democratic Labor Party ran as a challenger. Because of the different time zones in the huge country, Saturday’s election will start at different times in the regions.
The first polling stations opened in the morning on the east coast, the last ones in the far west close at 12 p.m. Austrian time. The first results should be available on Saturday.
Both candidates traveled the length and breadth of the fifth continent during the six-week election campaign to win votes. They made serious accusations against each other. The main topic was the economic situation. In particular, it is about the question of higher wages that Labor promises.
Many Australians also see the climate crisis as an enormous problem – especially after the recent devastating floods on the east coast. The country has also been suffering from severe bush fires and droughts, coral bleaching and tree deaths for years. Conservative PM Morrison is a supporter of the influential coal industry, and many Liberals are known to be climate change deniers. The corona pandemic, on the other hand, was only marginal – although the number of cases is still high and the country recorded more than 50,000 new infections on Friday.
A special feature of Australian elections are the so-called Democracy Sausages. Traditionally, there is a grill in front of many polling stations, where voters can fortify themselves with a kind of hot dog (sausage in a soft bun with mustard and ketchup). “Happy Democracy Sausage Day!” was the motto on Australian breakfast television. There are now also vegetarian alternatives and stands with coffee and cake.
While the sausages are a fixture, the challenger’s name is not. Nicknamed Anthony Albanese “Albo” for short (and Scott Morrison accordingly “ScoMo”). But the pronunciation of his surname has varied for years – including that of the politician himself. He used to call himself “Albaniis”, but later – in line with the Italian origin of the name – he switched to “Albanesii”. In an interview he once explained that “Albo” was probably the easiest.
More than 17 million people are called upon to vote for all 151 seats in the House of Commons and half of the 78 seats in the Senate. There is a compulsory choice. Around half of Australians have reportedly voted in advance, either by absentee ballot or early voting. Last week, hundreds of polling stations were open to those unable to vote on election day itself. Anyone who tested positive for the corona virus could cast their vote by telephone.