The outcome of Australia's snap general election hung in the balance until late in the night on Saturday, several hours after the counting started as polling ended across the country.
Both the ruling Australian Labour Party and the opposition Liberal-National Coalition began looking at the possibility of a hung Parliament.
The House of Representatives has 150 members, and the magical figure for a decisive majority is at least 76 seats. Labour held 88 seats in the recently-dissolved House, and the Coalition's count was 59 in that chamber. The country has a total electorate of 14 million.
Latest news from Agencies reported Ms. Gillard trailing behind her conservative rivals in national polls by 70 seats to 72, public broadcaster ABC said as vote counting went deep into the night.
The Labour leader, 48, conceded her centre-left party would not gain the 76 seats needed for an outright majority and would rely on the support of parliament's projected four independent lawmakers.
Scanning the latest poll horizon for seeing a way forward, the country's first woman Prime Minister Julia Gillard vowed to “continue to lead the government until the outcome is clearly known” in the next “few days.”
Liberal leader Tony Abbott said there would be “no premature triumphalism” in the Coalition camp, although Labour, according to him, “has definitely lost its majority.” And, the Julia Gillard-led “Government has lost its legitimacy,” said Mr. Abbott. However, he conceded that Ms. Gillard would continue in a “caretaker” capacity until the next government could be formed.
Both Ms. Gillard and Mr. Abbott were making televised speeches, in Melbourne and Sydney respectively, in line with the Australian political convention on the poll-day night.
With political analysts predicting that Independents might hold the balance of power in the next House of Representatives, Ms. Gillard lost no time in “acknowledging” the winners from that spectrum of political diversity.
Mr. Abbott was more categorical in saying that he would be “talking to the Independent Members” in the context of the final poll results in the days to come. “The Coalition is back in business and stands ready to govern and offer a stable, predictable, and competent government.” He described the awaited outcome of this election as “a win for Australia.”
Both the leaders, differing in age by just a few years, struck confident notes as if the awaited outcome would be a win-win situation for both. At same time, the leaders on both sides of the divide began counting the possibility of having a minority government.
Some Australian analysts and regional diplomats noted that Ms. Gillard might have suffered for the way she deposed Kevin Rudd, a duly elected Prime Minister, before asking for a mandate in her own right. Her party's poor showing in Mr. Rudd's home-state of Queensland, as evident during the incomplete counting, was cited.
Observers also credited Mr. Abbott for having run a competitive campaign, which Ms. Gillard acknowledged as “stern stuff.” He is widely seen as former Prime Minister John Howard's protégé, while Ms. Gillard has had a rapid rise in politics with the reputation of being individualistic