Australians vote with Abbott set for landslide win

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Millions of Australians voted in national elections Saturday with conservative challenger Tony Abbott heading for a thumping victory over Labour Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Polling booths opened at 8 am (2200 GMT Friday) on a warm spring day with 14.7 million electors taking part in a mandatory ballot across the huge country where last-minute opinion polls showed Abbott on track for a landslide win.

A Newspoll published in The Australian Saturday put his Liberal/National coalition ahead 54 to 46 per cent on a two-party basis, the same as a Nielsen poll in the Sydney Morning Herald.

That represents a four percentage point swing since the last election in 2010.

The latest predictions have Labour losing anything from 14 to 32 seats in the 150-member lower House of Representatives with the conservatives set to claim a comfortable majority of more than 90 seats.

Rudd has struggled for traction after toppling Julia Gillard, Australia’s first female Prime Minister, as Labour leader just weeks before calling the election. Despite intense campaigning Rudd appears destined to spend at least three years in Opposition, but remains upbeat.

“It is days like this that we celebrate a democracy, people get to chose their government,” Rudd told the Seven Network from Brisbane.

“I believe we have put our best foot forward. I’m very confident in people’s judgement because they will assess what is best for our country’s future, their community’s future and their family’s future.”

Asked if he would step down if he lost, Rudd said: “This is politics. You take things one step at a time.”

As well as Labour and the conservatives, more than 50 other parties are registered, including the Greens and the Palmer United Party, run by controversial billionaire Clive Palmer, and they are also expected to be beneficiaries of the ruling party’s fragmenting base.

A third poll by Morgan showed support for the Greens at 10.5 per cent while for independents and others it was 14 per cent, reflecting how disaffected some voters are with both Abbott and Rudd.

Palmer, best known for building a replica of the Titanic and who only set up his party this year, has attracted 6.5 per cent of voters with his populist message which includes slashing taxation, according to Morgan.

Abbott, 55, running as Opposition leader in his second election, admitted the minor party vote could be important.

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