For the first time in Tasmanian history, the Liberal Party has formed government for a third consecutive term.
Liberal Party to form majority government in Tasmania
After several days of vote tallying, a Liberal Party majority in the Tasmanian House of Assembly is finally beyond doubt. The result ensures that Premier Peter Gutwein, who promised to resign as Liberal leader if his party failed to win a lower house majority, will remain in the office he assumed in January 2020.
The Liberal Party received the most first preference votes in each of the five multi-member electorates, but the Hare-Clark electoral system ensured that other parties will also be properly represented in the House of Assembly. The Liberal Party won 13 of the 25 available seats, the same slim majority it won in 2018 under its previous leader, Will Hodgman.
The Labor Party suffered a swing against it of four percentage points in the 1 May election, while minor parties and Independent candidates received increased support from voters. The Greens gained two percentage points, but failed to improve their representation in the lower house. Independent candidate Kristie Johnson was successful in Clark, but Liberal-turned-Independent Sue Hickey was not.
Incumbency proves advantageous in the pandemic era
Incumbency is typically seen as a disadvantage in Australian elections, but COVID-19 may have reversed the trend.
Incumbent state governments in Queensland and Western Australia, led by conservative Labor leaders Annastacia Palaszczuk and Mark McGowan respectively, have recently been comfortably re-elected in elections dominated by the pandemic.
In Tasmania, EMRS opinion polls placed the Liberal primary vote at just 38% in July 2019 and 43% in March 2020, before the party recovered in the polls and ultimately won 49% of the primary vote. The most recent EMRS poll, conducted in February 2021, estimated that Peter Gutwein was the preferred premier of 61% of Tasmanian voters.
The Premier’s personal popularity was evident in the election results. In the electorate of Bass, Gutwein won 48% of the primary vote in a field of 19 candidates, including five other Liberal candidates. The next most popular candidate, Michelle O’Byrne, won 12% of the primary vote.
The supremacy of incumbents would seem to bode well for Steven Marshall, Daniel Andrews and Scott Morrison, three heads of government set to lead their respective parties to elections by the end of 2022.
Featured image attribution: Edoddridge, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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