SYDNEY, Australia — Australians woke up Sunday to a new prime minister in Anthony Albanese, the center-left Labor Party leader whose rise to the nation’s highest job by being raised in social housing by a single mother on a pension of disability was said to reflect the changed fabric of the country today.
The 59-year-old career politician, who has described himself as the only candidate with a “non-Anglo-Celtic name” to run for prime minister in the 121 years the position has existed, spoke of his humble upbringing in the interior. from Sydney. suburb of Camperdown as he thanked voters for making him the country’s 31st leader.
“It says a lot about our great country that the son of a single mother who was a disability pensioner, who grew up in public housing down the road in Camperdown, is able to stand before you tonight as Prime Minister of Australia,” Albanese said. jubilant to his supporters after removing Scott Morrison from office to end nine years of Conservative rule.
“All parents want more for the next generation than they had. My mother dreamed of a better life for me. And I hope that my journey in life inspires Australians to reach for the stars,” he said.
But it was unclear whether Albanese’s party would be able to form a majority government or would have to rely on support from a larger number of independent lawmakers and minor parties that won seats in Saturday’s election, in results analysts described as extremely complicated. and which also reflected the face of modern Australia.
With the counting going on for many days as postal votes are tallied, one perspective that emerged was that Albanese may need to be sworn in as interim prime minister to attend Tuesday’s Quad summit in Tokyo with US President Joe Biden. , Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The election was a clear rebuke to Australia’s traditional two-party system, both for Labor and for the heavily defeated Conservative coalition led by outgoing Liberal Party Prime Minister Morrison. The main parties bled votes from fringe and independent parties, including in many seats considered Labor or coalition strongholds.
Needing 76 seats in the bottom parliamentary chamber, the House of Representatives, to govern in their own right, Labor was called the winner in 71 on Sunday afternoon, with 67% of the vote counted, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
The Liberal-National coalition advanced by just 52, sharply down from its simple majority of 76 in the 2019 poll, in what analysts called a fierce pushback against Morrison and his team’s handling of many issues in his three-year term. years, including the weather, COVID -19, women’s rights, political integrity, and natural disasters like wildfires and floods.
A total of 15 seats had been declared for independent or minority party candidates. Of these, three were from the environment-focused Green Party and 12 were non-aligned politicians, with as many as nine from so-called Teal Independents.
In a new wave in Australian politics, teal independents market themselves as a shade greener than the Liberal Party’s traditional color blue and want stronger government action to cut Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions than they propose. the government or Labor.
Most of his successful candidates are women, their success seen in part as a rebuke to Morrison for his handling of gender issues, including the sex scandals that have rocked Parliament during his last three-year term.
While Labor will form a majority or minority government, both major parties have lost ground, with support for the coalition falling more than 6% since the 2019 election and the Labor vote falling by around 1.2% as of Sunday morning. .
Albanese vowed to unite Australians, increase investment in social services and “end climate wars”.
Speaking to reporters while walking his dog in his constituency on Sunday morning, Albanese evoked a more cooperative approach to parliamentary business, possibly inevitable if Labor is unable to form a majority government, describing his victory as “a great moment “.
“It’s something that is a great moment in my life, but what I want it to be is a great moment for the country,” he said. “I want to change the country. I want to change the way politics operates in this country.”
Greens leader Adam Bandt agreed, saying his party wanted to work with the next government to “tackle the climate crisis” and a “crisis of inequality” that he said threatened Australia.
“The Liberal vote went back, the Labor vote went back,” he told reporters. “More people turned to the Greens than ever…because we said politics has to be done differently.”
Albanese, who revealed in a 2016 interview that he had tracked down his biological father in Italy in 2009, four years before his death, said his last name and that of the new Senate government leader, Penny Wong, who is of Chinese descent , reflects a modern and multidisciplinary style. Cultural Australia.
“I think it’s good … someone with a non-Anglo-Celtic last name is the leader in the House of Representatives and someone with a last name like Wong is the leader of the government in the Senate,” he said.
With time pressing before Tuesday’s Quad summit, Australian National University constitutional law expert Professor Donald Rothwell predicted Albanese could be sworn in as interim prime minister to represent the country at the Tokyo meeting.
Rothwell said in a press release that Australia’s governor general, the representative of Australia’s top head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, “would only be prepared to be sworn in at Albanese as ‘acting prime minister’ until the results are much more clear”.
Albanese, speaking to reporters on Sunday morning, simply said he would be among the “five people who will be sworn in tomorrow (Monday)” before attending the Quad meeting, then returning to Australia on Wednesday when “we’ll get down to business.” to work”. “The four colleagues he mentioned included lawmakers who will go into key financial portfolios and his deputy leader.
Labor promised more financial assistance and a strong social safety net as Australia grapples with the highest inflation since 2001 and rising house prices.
The party also plans to raise minimum wages and, on the foreign policy front, has proposed establishing a Pacific defense school to train neighboring armies in response to a possible Chinese military presence in the Solomon Islands, on the doorstep of Australia.
It also wants to tackle climate change with a more ambitious 43% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050.
Morrison, who became prime minister after an internal party coup in 2018, said he would step down as Liberal leader. His popularity had plummeted since his surprise 2019 election victory, even after taking a vacation to Hawaii during Australia’s devastating bushfires in the summer of 2019-20 and more recently amid the Solomon Islands strategic alliance. with Chinese.