Government minister claims victory in close Australia vote

Christopher Pyne, government leader in the House of Representatives says government had won 74 seats, likely to win another three

CANBERRA, Australia – A senior government minister claimed victory on Friday in Australia’s knife-edge election, and a second independent lawmaker offered his support to the ruling party if it falls short of a majority.

The moves come as counting continues for a handful of seats – official results could still be days away – and with the opposition not conceding.

Christopher Pyne, the government leader in the House of Representatives, said his conservative Liberal Party-led coalition would form a majority government following the weekend election or a minority government with the support of independents.

He said the government had won 74 seats in the House of Representatives and was likely to win another three as vote counting continued. The government needs at least 76 seats to form a majority in the 150-seat chamber.

“We’ve won again. That’s our sixth victory out of eight in the last 20 years,” Pyne told Nine Network television.

“You’d have to say that we are an election-winning machine in the Liberal Party,” Pyne said.

Later, independent lawmaker Andrew Wilkie said in a statement there was “no conceivable way” that the opposition centre-left Labor Party could form even a minority government.

Wilkie said he would support a coalition minority government in the interests of stability.

Another independent, Bob Katter, said on Thursday that he would also back Turnbull’s coalition if it failed to win a majority.

But Labor has not conceded that Turnbull will form a government.

“We need to let the Australian Electoral Commission complete its work, but if you’re a betting person, you’d have to say it’s more likely that the Turnbull government, probably a minority government, a very unstable minority government, will be returned,” Labor Party Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

The Australian Electoral Commission put the coalition ahead in 74 seats, Labor in 71, and the minor parties and independents in five. Mail-in and absentee votes that are still being counted days after Saturday’s vote are favouring the conservatives.

ABC election analysts – considered among the most reliable – were forecasting that the coalition had 73 seats, Labor 66, with minor parties and independents leading in five seats. Another six seats are still in doubt.

Turnbull is also in discussions with another independent and a minor party lawmaker.

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