Australians are voting Saturday in national elections that are expected to return conservatives to power and end the Labor Party\’s six-year government leadership.
Opinion polls suggest victory for the right-of-centre coalition led by Tony Abbott, which favours tough border controls, lower taxes and a smaller government.
Rival Labor party seems to have lost many voters to Abbot\’s Liberal-National party due to squabbling within the team.
Kevin Rudd ousted Prime Minister Julia Gillard from the ruling party in June.
The move reinvigorated the campaign, but as Labour infighting continued more voters swung to Abbot\’s coalition.
Labor initially saw its figures improve significantly. But in recent weeks Abbott has again broadened the gap. He has enjoyed the strident support of Rupert Murdoch\’s newspapers, and remains ahead in the opinion polls.
The 55-year-old conservative Abbott has never been very popular nationally.
His Liberal Party colleagues elected him their leader by just a single vote in 2009.
The economy has been a central issue to both campaigns. The next leader will be charged with managing the transition as the mining and resources boom subsides, amid slowing demand for China and slumping commodity prices.
Both parties have announced tough asylum policies to stem the number of people reaching Australia\’s shores by boat, an apparent cause of anxiety in some crucial swinging electorates.
Abbott has also promised to repeal the government\’s unpopular carbon tax – a policy which has marked Australia out as a world leader on climate change legislation in the past three years.
More than 14 million people are expected to vote in Saturday\’s election.