Shocker Down Under: Leading in Every Single Poll, Australia's Leftist Labor Party Loses, Conservatives Hold Power

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Posted: May 20, 2019 10:25 AM
Shocker Down Under: Leading in Every Single Poll, Australia's Leftist Labor Party Loses, Conservatives Hold Power

Over the weekend, Australians went to the polls and voted to keep the center-right governing coalition in power, despite a slew of public opinion surveys predicting the leftist Labor Party would seize control of the government.  After the conservatives posted a decisive victory in 2013's federal elections, the coalition has endured a drumbeat of internal leadership turmoil, cycling through three different Prime Ministers since 2015.  Labor mounted an aggressively critical campaign against what it called a "chaotic" conservative Liberal/National government, and nationwide polls pointed to a win for the resurgent Left.  Here's the Guardian last week:

Labor remains ahead of the Coalition in the final Guardian Essential poll of the 2019 campaign, and a majority of voters believe Bill Shorten will be the winner on Saturday night. The final survey of 1,201 voters has Labor in front of the Coalition 51.5% to 48.5% on the two-party preferred measure, which is the same as last week. The Coalition’s primary vote is 38.5% (up from 38% a week ago) and Labor’s is 36.2% (up from 34%)...While 59% of the sample believes [Labor's] Shorten will win on Saturday night, a rebound in expectations from the prevailing view last week (where 54% thought Labor would win), the Coalition’s messaging is more front-and-centre in voter’s minds as people prepare to cast their votes.

Literally every single public poll of the race taken in May showed Labor ahead by two-to-four points.  Indeed, the center-right coalition hadn't even managed a tie on the generic ballot since late 2017; their last lead was in two Augusts ago.  Labor led in 54 consecutive polls.  Against that grim backdrop, the governing conservatives launched their home stretch messaging blitz heading into the 2019 campaign's final month.  Their central argument to the electorate?  Labor's program of tax increases and profligate spending would once again harm the Australian economy, so voters shouldn't entrust them with power:

Labor campaigned on familiar tropes about 'fairness,' and emphasizing government policies to combat climate change.  The polls and the experts expected them to knock off the coalition.  And then the people actually voted, producing a conventional wisdom-blasting outcome that is being compared by many observers to Brexit and the 2016 election of Donald Trump -- via the Washington Post:

The center-right government of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison held onto power Saturday after a surprise surge in national elections that left some pundits making comparisons to President Trump’s poll-defying win in 2016. The apparent upset victory was the latest election to trample predictions by polling firms, which all showed Morrison’s political bloc trailing the opposition Labor Party. It also carried other uncanny parallels with Trump’s rise. In Australia’s coal country, Morrison was seen as an ally to protect jobs against a push for more renewable energy and greater efforts to battle climate change. Morrison drew further support with promises of tax cuts and a tough line on immigration, contrasting with Labor’s call for more social programs and less-stringent migrant policies. The Labor leader, Bill Shorten, conceded defeat as election returns tipped the scales against him.

Confidence was so high in a Labor victory that one betting agency, Sportsbet, said about 70 percent of the wagers were for Labor to regain control after six years in opposition. “This is a complete shock,” said Zareh Ghazarian, a political science lecturer at Monash University in Melbourne. “We have completely expected an opposite thing for two years. Voters rejected the big picture. They have endorsed a government that has run on a very presidential campaign and on its management of the economy.” ... The reelection of Morrison’s government will mean that Australia will set much less ambitious goals in cutting emissions of greenhouse gases. It will also be firmly supportive of U.S.-led efforts to contain the influence of China and block Chinese technology giant Huawei from government contracts. Morrison was one of the architects of Australia’s tough approach on asylum seekers...In the end, Morrison’s regular-guy political persona — he was the first Australian prime minister to campaign in baseball caps — and promises to cut taxes proved unexpectedly effective.

Trump tweeted a congratulatory message to PM Morrison on Saturday:


An elated Morrison addressed cheering supporters as the surprising results rolled in, crediting "quiet Australians" with the coalition's 'miraculous' triumph, and Labor's upset defeat -- something of an echo of Trump's 'forgotten man' appeal:


Up next in international political drama: Will the brand new 'Brexit' Party prevail in the UK's upcoming EU Parliamentary elections?  It seems the Tory government's dysfunction, and the Labour opposition's incoherence, on delivering the British people's 2016 Brexit mandate has inspired voters to look elsewhere.  Meanwhile, are the stars aligning for a bona fide Brexiteer to become the next Prime Minister in Westminster, as Mrs. May charts her departure path?