Melbourne: Australia`s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was headed for a defeat in the national elections on Saturday, as exit polls suggested a landslide victory for his Conservative challenger Tony Abbott.
Polls had closed in Australia`s most populous states like Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and the Capital territory.
The Abbott-led Coalition, which is a formal alliance of broadly centre-right parties, was headed for victory, according to a Sky News/Newspoll exit poll. Abbott is currently the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the Liberal Party.
At the close of polling, Labor was on track for a landslide defeat, losing an estimated 21 seats while the Coalition stands to gain at least 25.
The exit poll put the two-party preferred vote at 53-47, compared to 52-48 when the election was called, suggesting Rudd`s erratic campaign has cost Labor votes.
It predicts the Coalition will win 97 seats, Labor 51 and independents two, The Australian reported.
Less than 10 minutes after east coast booths closed, cabinet minister Stephen Smith declared Labor had lost the election. He told the ABC the result could be worse than 1996, when Labor was reduced to 49 seats.
"This is a night where regrettably we will see the defeat of a Labor Government," Smith said.
Former prime minister Bob Hawke also conceded Labor had lost. He said it was "sad" to see the once-proud party in the state it had found itself.
State-by-state exit polling suggested Labor is headed for a rout in NSW, where the Coalition is tipped to pick up 14 seats, and Queensland, where it stands to gain seven.
Rudd is also facing the loss of his own Brisbane seat of Griffith, where Newspoll suggests he is neck-and-neck with Liberal National Party candidate Bill Glasson.
In Victoria, Newspoll predicts Labor will cede three seats to the Coalition, but pick up one from the Greens` Adam Bandt. The Coalition is also tipped to pick up the Western Australian seat of Brand from Labor`s Gary Gray.
Newspoll`s interviews with 500 voters in marginal seats in NSW and Queensland revealed a 6.3 per cent swing against the government, on a two-party preferred basis.
Rudd has struggled after toppling Julia Gillard, Australia`s first female prime minister, as Labor leader just weeks before calling the election.