Millions cast their ballots in Australia election


Australians have been casting their ballots in a general election, with opposition leader Tony Abbott’s Liberal-National coalition aiming to end six years of Labor government.

Early exit polls, released before voting ended, gave Mr Abbott a commanding lead over Mr Rudd, who returned as prime minister in June.

The rivals are split on how to tackle the budget deficit, but both pledged tough action on asylum-seekers.

More than 14 million people were expected to vote in Saturday’s election. Shortly before the polls opened, Australia’s election commission revealed that a record 3.2 million ballots had already been cast in early voting.

Throughout this campaign Tony Abbott has been able to play it relatively safe, knowing his long-standing lead in the polls meant he simply had to avoid making a game-changing blunder. It’s been his race to lose; Kevin Rudd’s to try to win.

Mr Rudd has pitched himself as the "comeback kid" but after an initial honeymoon (or second honeymoon) period after he ousted Julia Gillard, his numbers began to slump.

It is hard to overestimate just how damaging the infighting and allegations of backstabbing have been for the Labor party’s standing. Australia’s slowing economy has not helped Mr Rudd either. His message of "I know we’re not doing as well as we used to be but it could have been much worse" has perhaps been a hard one for voters to grasp.

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