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Lawmaker claims victory in close Australian election

The government needs at least 76 seats to form a majority in the 150-seat chamber.



Canberra, Jul 8 (AP) A senior government minister claimed victory today in Australia's knife-edge election, although the official result could be days away and the opposition did not concede defeat.

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 added.

But the center-left Labor Party opposition has not conceded that Prime Minister Malcolm 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 favoring 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.

Independent lawmaker Bob Katter declared yesterday he would support a coalition minority government and Turnbull is in discussions with other independents and minor party lawmakers in case he falls short of 76 seats.
Under Labor rules, nominations open today for candidates to contest the party leadership.

But Anthony Albanese, a lawmaker who was defeated by Bill Shorten for the leadership in the last post-election ballot in 2013, said Shorten's continued leadership was assured.
"There will only be one candidate, that candidate will be Bill Shorten," Albanese told the Nine Network.

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