ACT Labor is expected to retain power and secure its sixth parliamentary term with support from the Greens.
A swing against the Canberra Liberals from voters in the western suburbs means leader Alistair Coe is unlikely to win enough seats to end Labor’s 19-year reign.
More than three quarters of the ballots cast across Canberra’s five electorates had been counted following the close of voting at 6pm on Saturday.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr, ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury and Canberra Liberals leader Alistair Coe have all been re-elected.
The coronavirus pandemic appears to have favoured the incumbents with Labor cementing 10 seats and the Greens, one, of the 25 in the Legislative Assembly.
Labor needs 13 seats to govern with a majority. It previously held 12 seats and had the support of two Greens MLAs.
The Canberra Liberals had to pick up an additional two seats and retain 11 seats for a victory.
But a 4.6 per cent swing in the northern electorate of Yerrabi – Alistair Coe’s seat – was not enough for the party to oust Labor, which stole votes from the Opposition around Tuggeranong in Canberra’s south.
The Greens also had swings to it in all five electorates.
THE RESULTS SO FAR
Labor and the Liberals are set to win two seats each in the electorate of Brindabella, which covers Canberra’s southern suburbs.
The Liberals held three of the five seats going in to the election.
At least one seat has gone to the Canberra Liberals and two seats have gone to Labor.
Deputy Chief Minister Yvette Berry and Liberal Elizabeth Kikkert have been re-elected.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr was the first in the electorate to reach a quota.
Labor has secured two seats in the central Canberra seat with one seat each going to the ACT Greens and the Liberals.
Two seats are expected to go to both the Canberra Liberals and Labor.
Transport Minister Chris Steel and former Liberal leader Jeremy Hanson have been re-elected.
Canberra Liberals leader Alistair Coe was re-elected.
Both the Canberra Liberals and Labor have secured two seats.
ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury told ABC that coronavirus was favouring the incumbents.
“There’s no doubt that the pandemic changed the ACT election this year,” Mr Rattenbury said.
“I think it mitigated against the ‘it’s time’ factor that was facing the ALP and to some extent by association the Greens.”
A whopping 70 per cent of the territory’s 302,630 enrolled voters had cast their decision before Saturday.
This was a result of a three-week voting period due to COVID-19 designed to prevent people standing in long queues.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said it would be difficult for Labor to gain a majority in its own right, despite steering Canberrans through a year of devastating bushfires and the coronavirus pandemic.
“On the basis that it is clear later tonight that Labor, plus Greens, hold at least 13 seats then we would seek to form a government in that way,” Mr Barr told Sky News on election day.
“Shane Rattenbury, leader of the Greens Party, has made very clear the Greens will not form a government with the ultraconservative Canberra Liberals.”
Another Labor victory under a coalition with the ACT Greens would make the party one of the longest-serving governments across Australia at 23 years.
But Liberal leader Alistair Coe hopes to unseat Labor’s reign, fighting the election on cost of living pressures, lower taxes and better services.
Mr Coe has promised to make the ACT the “best place to live, work and raise a family”.
Retiring Liberal MLA Vicki Dunne told ABC said the road to victory for her party was “very narrow”.
“Everything has to go right for us,” she said.
“Our strategy has to be for the most part a strategy for majority government.
“There has only been one majority government in the past, and there has never been a Liberal majority government.
“If Alistair pulls this off he will be a hero of the Liberal Party forever.”
LEADERS VISIT BOOTHS
Mr Barr attended North Ainslie Primary School on Saturday morning where he spoke with voters and helped cook the traditional democracy sausages on the barbecue.
Mr Coe was also out with candidates across the ACT’s five electorates trying to win over undecided voters.
Only 80,000 people were expected to attend one of Canberra’s 82 voting centres on election day.
Electronic voting was available at all polling booths, which means the result may be know within hours of votes closing at 6pm.
Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese also took to Twitter to wish ACT Labor luck for the election.
But Prime Minister Scott Morrison remained quiet on social media, after spending the week in Queensland where he campaigned with Liberal Opposition leader Deb Frecklington.
HOW MANY SEATS DO THE LIBERALS NEED TO WIN?
The ACT Legislative Assembly has 25 seats.
Labor held 12 seats and governs with the support of two Greens MLAs.
The Liberals had 11 seats and need to pick up two to gain a majority.
WHICH SEATS COULD THE LIBERALS PICK UP?
Labor holds three of the five seats in Yerrabi, which includes Gungahlin in Canberra’s north, and Ginninderra, which includes the Belconnen region.
The Greens also one seat in the electorates of Kurrajong which encompasses central Canberra, and Murrumbidge which includes growth suburbs in Canberra’s west.
HOW DOES THE HARE-CLARK SYSTEM WORK?
The ACT has five electorates: Brindabella, Ginninderra, Kurrajong, Murrumbidgee and Yerrabi.
Each electorate has five seats and to be elected candidates have to obtain a quota of the votes cast in the electorate.
This means the candidates are not only competing against opponents from external parties but also their own.
Once the quota is met, surplus votes are distributed to the next preference on each ballot paper to elect further candidates.
WHAT ELSE IS DIFFERENT IN THE ACT?
Aside from electronic voting, volunteers are not allowed to hand out how-to-vote-cards within 100m of a polling station.
Another feature of the ACT electoral system includes the Robson rotation method, which involves changing the positions of candidates within each column on the ballot paper.
This aims to ensure that no candidate has the “advantage” of appearing in the top position on every ballot paper.