Zed Seselja talks with supporters at the Liberal party at the Hotel Realm on election night. Photo: Rohan Thomson
Liberal Zed Seselja has an increased chance of winning the ACT’s second Senate spot after further counting of votes on Sunday. But the Greens believe counting later in the week of below-the-line votes will strongly favour Simon Sheikh.
The Liberal Party and the Greens both believe their side will benefit from pre-poll votes, which were cast in record numbers at this election.
Following a growing trend in recent elections, almost 80,000 of the 265,000 voters registered in the ACT cast their vote before election day.
Simon Shiekh and his wife Anna Rose enter the Greens' party at The Canberra Club on election night. Photo: Rohan Thomson
The closeness of the contest for the second Senate seat means the outcome may depend on postal votes received later this week.
Labor’s primary vote has fallen by 6.5 per cent, with about 60 per cent of the vote counted.
The quota to win one of the ACT’s two Senate seats is set at a third of the vote. At the close of counting by the Australian Electoral Commission on Sunday, Labor had 34.29 per cent, followed by the Liberal Party on 32.09per cent and the Greens on 20.45 per cent.
Among the minor parties contesting the ACT Senate, the Sex Party received almost 6000 votes, the Palmer United Party had 3300 votes, the Voluntary Euthanasia Party had 2400 votes and the Animal Justice Party had 1800.
The Animal Justice Party, which has first place on the ACT Senate ballot paper – earning the so-called donkey vote – is directing its preferences to the Liberal Party ahead of the Greens. However, the Greens will benefit from preferences from most of the other minor parties.
If Mr Seselja receives all the preferences from the Animal Justice Party and the Rise Up Australia Party, and a third of the preferences from the Stable Population Party, which issued three how-to-vote cards, his vote would rise to about 34 per cent, a winning position.
The Greens say 40 per cent of their Senate vote was cast as below-the-line votes and will show up as a boost for the party in counting from Wednesday.
Mr Sheikh was not available for comment on Sunday.
Mr Seselja said he was very hopeful of winning the second spot, which has always been in Coalition hands.
‘‘Prepoll does traditionally favour the Liberal Party. I would think it’s more likely our vote goes up rather than down as the count continues,’’ he said.
‘‘I am very hopeful that we will get a good result; it is close.
‘‘But I think one of the big stories here in Canberra was a massive swing against the Labor-Greens alliance in the Senate.
‘‘This is probably their worst vote in the Senate for decades.
‘‘Labor and the Greens and the unions ran a highly negative campaign against us and in the end they lost about 9 per cent of their primary vote.
‘‘I think what we need now is sensible language, not to go out there and scare people.’’
Labor Senator Kate Lundy, who retained her position, says her party lost support due to disunity as well as voters voting ‘‘strategically’’ to boost the Greens in the Senate.
‘‘I think we have definitely been marked down for our leadership issues over the last two terms, I think we have been sent a message,’’ she said.
‘‘Disunity is, not quite death, but a very strong warning from ACT voters; they don’t approve and they’ll be looking to Labor to lift our game.
‘‘[Labor support] certainly has [fallen], marginally in the reps seats, more so in the Senate because I think many Labor voters were trying to aid the cause of removing Zed Seselja, that certainly impacted strongly on the Senate Labor vote.’’
Senator Lundy said she would serve her full term and hoped to remain on the frontbench as Labor went into opposition.
She would not comment specifically on the leadership of the party after the resignation of outgoing prime minister Kevin Rudd.
Ian Gordon, the Australian Electoral Officer for the ACT, who supervised counting at the ANU on Sunday, said voting went smoothly in the ACT on Saturday.
‘‘A lot of people seemed to get out early and we had plenty of people outat our booths,’’ he said.
‘‘The polling booth at Old Parliament House was very heavily utilised and many electors chose to cast their ballot there, both interstate and local.
‘‘I’m not sure what the attraction was, but certainly many locals and many interstate people came to that iconic venue to cast their ballots.’’