Australia Election - Early Exit Polls Predict Huge Defeat For Howard
Polling booths will not start closing until 6 p.m. (7:00 a.m. British time), but the Sky television exit poll of 31 marginal government seats forecast a 30-seat gain for Labour leader Kevin Rudd, more than enough for him to form a government.
The exit poll of 2,787 voters by Auspoll gave Labour 53 percent of the vote and the ruling Liberal party 47 percent.
"Its very likely that Labour has won this election. Something in the order of 30-odd seats," said Auspoll’s John Armitage.
Howard, 68, has trailed in opinion polls all year with some forecasting a landslide victory for Labour, but surveys in the final days of the campaign said the contest was neck-and-neck.
Auspoll said a sample of 950 voters in Howard’s marginal Sydney electorate showed the veteran politician, who has held Bennelong since entering parliament in 1974, was likely to lose his own seat.
If Howard has lost Bennelong he will be the first prime minister to suffer the indignity in an election for 78 years.
Howard is a staunch U.S. ally and if re-elected has committed to keeping Australian troops in Iraq. He has offered voters A$34 billion (14.4 billion pounds) in tax cuts, but few new policies.
Rudd has pledged to withdraw combat troops from Iraq and sign the Kyoto Protocol, further isolating Washington on both. The Mandarin-speaking former diplomat would also be expected to forge closer ties with China and other Asian nations.
Howard meanwhile has been quoted as saying that he was likely to lose his electoral seat of 33 years after he conceded defeat in the country's general election. "It is very likely to be the case that I will no longer be the member for Bennelong."
1) Australia's Labor claims election victory.
2) Australia's Labour sweeps to power in elections.