EDITORIAL FRIDAY 27.08.10.
Day six of the never ending election, and perhaps the final result is looking a little clearer. At the time of writing it appeared that the Coalition would hold 73 seats, the Labor Party 72, the Greens 1, and the Independents 4. Of course, that counts the Western Australian non-aligned National as part of the Coalition, along with the indication already given that the Green member would support Labor, so depending on how you look at it you could say that it’s 73 seats each plus 4 others, or 72 seats each with 6 others. Either way, the balance could not be any more precarious. Of course, it is that very fact which raises the question of whether or not any minority government which might be formed can possibly maintain any kind of stability.
On balance, I suspect that the real winner of this election has been Tony Abbott. The increased support for the Greens speaks for itself, but it is Tony Abbott and the Coalition who have come back from the wilderness to be within a whisker of taking office. It is Tony Abbott who has been the catalyst to restore the fortunes of the Coalition, while being instrumental in the downfall of the government’s credibility over the past nine months. Even before the election, Tony Abbott was a winner simply because he had pulled off something very few people believed possible just by getting the Coalition back into the race. Now, whichever way the result finally goes, all the cards are likely to favour Tony Abbott in the weeks and months ahead.
If Labor manages to form a minority government it will do so from a position of weakness. It will be hamstrung by the need to negotiate everything, and it will be hampered by an apparent lack of legitimacy, both which will be failings that you can bet Tony Abbott will highlight at every opportunity. Even if such a minority government could manage to last a full term, Mr. Abbott will spend the whole period presenting himself and the Coalition as a safe and stable alternative. If, on the other hand the Coalition forms a minority government in the next few weeks, it could be seen as almost a provisional government which has stepped in to pick up the pieces after the implosion of the once popular Labor government. It would then have the opportunity to establish itself before returning to the polls at a later stage to seek to obtain a majority in its own right.
Either way, Tony Abbot is already in front, and all he really needs to do is not to stuff it up.