Belying opinion surveys and exit polls, the conservative Liberal-National coalition led by current prime minister Scott Morrison has clinched a 'miracle' victory. Of the 151 seats with 17 million voters in all, the coalition won the required 76 seats. Observers of Australia were hoping that the Labour Party led by Bill Shorten would beat Morrison, an anti-immigration leader during and after the campaign, an exponent of development of coal industry and one with conservative stances on issues which have been vexing Australia like climate change.
However, the victory of Morrison's Liberal Party and its coalition, is similar to the 'shocking' one Donald Trump had in 2016. Morrison, who reached the prime minister's chair after overturning Malcolm Turnbull in the internal feud within the party in last August, can now continue in power for three years with direct mandate from the people. Not unsurprisingly, President Trump was the first to congratulate the like-minded leader in Australia, a close ally of the US. That was closely followed by Israel prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And for the US, which has intensified its trade war against China on tariffs, will greatly benefit from having a close friend ruling a strong country in the Asia Pacific region.
The Liberals, who adopt a lenient view in issues like climate change, have always laid stress on more employment opportunities and infrastructure development. Together with this, they were able to uphold a leader with better charisma than the Labour Party leader for the post of prime minister. Although as a party the Labour enjoys more popularity, it was not able to put up a strong candidate with prime minister material. Shorten, who promised higher wages, overall infra-structure expansion, and expeditious measures to tackle the disasters of climate change, sought votes on these planks. But the people, who were fed up with frequent regime changes, apparently decided to let Morrison continue.
In the choice between Labour's priorities on ending income disparities and to tide over the impact of climate change on the one hand, and the rightists who promised economic stability, jobs and immigration control, Australia, where conservative racists have a relative upper hand, has gone with an evangelical Christian, also an admirer of Trump. Even as the Liberal Party is known as a moderate group of urban population, one of the coalition partners - the National Party - is known for its rightist racism too. Not only that, although the country is battling economic crisis and clilmatic disaster, racist hatred and anti-immigration politics were reflected in the poll campaign – just as it happened in India.
It was social media that was mostly used to spice up and spread hatred and counter-propoaganda by all. When one of the candidates carried out a campaign against the opposition highlighting the hazards of homosexuality, another was clamouring for circumcision of non-Muslims who supported Islam and Muslims. And there were also those who threatened to rape Asians and other immigrant groups. However, thanks to the stringent bar set by the Election Commission's conditions, political parties themselves were forced to pull out such campaigners as indulged in vitriolic propaganda.
In the land of Australia where homophobia and Islamophobia has taken strong roots, the bonds with and support for, champions of far right white racism is strengthening via social media. It is natural that in the first election after this trend set in, such racial hatred is getting reflected. And it was by capitalising on this general frailty of Australian politics, that the 51-year Morrison proved his mettle. After entering parliament in 2007, Morrison, while in charge of the immigration portfolio in the cabinet, introduced the 'Stop the Boats' law that denied permanent residency to refugees who arrived by sea. As a backer of the mining industry, once he assumes office again, Morrison is likely to ignore the objections by environmentalists and conservationists and pave the way for coal mining by giving approval to Indian industrialist Adani. The declared policy itself of Liberal Party is to let jobs come first, and climate and love for ecology can follow.
The general impression throughout the poll surveys was that the people were very much concerned with issues that affected their lives like climate change. In a poll conducted by one of the most authentic groups in the country, 23 percent laid stress on climate, 32 percent on health, 31 percent on cost of living and 25 percent on crime rates. This had attracted wide attention of the media and political observers too. It also caught headlines that it was youth below 25 years who showed more concern and vigilance in these matters. In the backdrop of this experience, many had condemned the Indian election campaign in which ring leaders including the prime minister and ruling party spokesmen set out with campaign of hatred and vitriolic communal propaganda. But as it happened, the Australian election results have shattered all such expectations. Even as the people identify issues and seek remedies, ultimately in elections emotions win over rationality. And that is the unpleasant truth highlighted by Australian election. And there are some pointers in the Australian poll outcome for India too, which in the bustle of exit poll results, is also preparing to hear the election results.