Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has conceded defeat in the country’s national election, ending more than eight years in power for his conservative coalition.
Opposition Labor leader Anthony Albanese will be sworn in as prime minister after his party clenched its first electoral win since 2007 – but he could end up leading a minority government.
While vote counting was incomplete, Labor looked likely to form a government, the prime minister said.
“Tonight I have spoken to the leader of the opposition and the incoming prime minister, Anthony Albanese, and I’ve congratulated him on his election victory this evening,” he said at a televised speech in Sydney.
Mr Morrison, who became prime minister in 2018 after several leadership changes, said he would stand down as leader of the Liberal Party.
The Labor Party may have to form a minority government after both main parties lost ground to smaller parties.
A strong showing by the Greens and a of group of “teal independents”, who campaigned on policies of integrity, equality and tackling climate change, means the make-up of the new parliament looks set to be much less climate-sceptic than the one that supported Mr Morrison’s pro-coal mining administration.
He has previously vowed to work to keep coal mines operating for as long as possible, refusing to commit to phasing out damaging fossil fuels.
Neither of the major parties appeared certain to win the minimum 76 seats required for a majority in the 151-seat parliament, but Labor appeared on track to win more than 70 seats, the broadcaster said.
“Labor is [on] 72, and needs 76 seats to govern. There are 11 members of the crossbench, most of whom support action on climate change,” said election analyst Antony Green.
“If Labor falls short and it wants to form government, it can talk to the Greens or it can talk to the crossbench.”
Winning fewer than 76 seats will force the party to negotiate with others, and with minor parties and independents taking votes from both left and right, this increases the likelihood of a hung parliament and a minority government.
However, centre-left Labor could still form a majority government, based on early vote counting, lawmakers and analysts said.
The government had been seeking a fourth three-year term.
Under Mr Albanese, the opposition Labour Party ended the six-week campaign as a favourite to win its first election since 2007.
But in 2019 Mr Morrison defied opinion polls to win. His coalition holds the narrowest of majorities – 76 seats in the 151-member House of Representatives, where parties need a majority to form a government.
In early counting on Saturday, the coalition was on track to win 38 seats and Labor 71. Seven seats were of independent politicians and 23 were too close to call.
The pandemic led to a record proportion of postal votes, which will not be added to the count until Sunday.