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Australia vote could lead to hung parliament

| Saturday, July 2, 2016, 8:09 p.m.
Too-close-to-call election results didn’t stop Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull from telling Liberal Party supporters at a rally in rally in Sydney on Sunday, July 3, 2016, that the party would form a coalition government.
Too-close-to-call election results didn’t stop Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull from telling Liberal Party supporters at a rally in rally in Sydney on Sunday, July 3, 2016, that the party would form a coalition government.

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia's era of political chaos continued Saturday, with a general election failing to deliver an immediate victor and raising the prospect of a hung parliament.

Hours after the polls closed, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull sounded a confident tone despite early results showing his conservative Liberal Party-led coalition in a virtual tie with the opposition center-left Labor Party.

“Based on the advice I have from the party officials, we can have every confidence that we will form a coalition majority government in the next parliament,” Turnbull said in a speech to cheering supporters early Sunday.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten did not speculate on a Labor victory but celebrated the strong swing to his party only three years after it was convincingly dumped from power in the last election.

“There is one thing for sure. The Labor Party is back,” he said in a speech to supporters.

Parties need to hold at least 76 seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives to form a government. When the count was suspended early Sunday, the Australian Electoral Commission said Labor was leading in 72 seats, Turnbull's coalition in 66 seats, and minor parties or independents in five seats. Counting was less clear in seven seats.

The final tally is not expected to be known until Tuesday, after mail-in ballots and those cast before Saturday's election were counted. In past elections, these votes have favored the conservatives.

Just two possibilities remain: The coalition will win by the slimmest of margins, or there will be a hung parliament.

Turnbull called the rare early election — dubbed a “double dissolution” because both the House and the Senate are dissolved — in a bid to break a legislative deadlock over a bill that would have created a construction industry watchdog. But the result of the election may bring further deadlock: If neither party earns a majority of seats in the House, both Labor and the coalition will be forced to try to forge alliances with independent lawmakers to form a minority government.

The election continues an extraordinarily volatile period in the nation's politics, during which internal party squabbling and fears over sagging poll ratings have prompted five changes of prime minister in as many years.

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