Labor and Liberals vying for power in ACT

Labor is aiming for its sixth successive election victory in the ACT as the Canberra Liberals bank on voters seeing Saturday’s poll as a referendum on the rising cost of living.

More than 60 per cent of Canberrans have cast an early vote or applied for a postal ballot.

This weekend marks 19 years in office for Labor, with three leaders over the period.

But ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr – the second-longest serving political leader in the country – says there has been no shortage of renewal or added accountability despite Labor’s longevity in power.

Eight of the 12 Labor members were elected at the last poll in 2016 and there have been a number of measures put in place to add scrutiny, including an integrity commission and campaign spending caps.

Labor has governed in minority with the Greens for all but one of the terms, in 2004.

Both major parties have been campaigning on broadly similar platforms, promising better efforts on health, education, the environment and transport.

Comparing the 2001 and 2016 poll results, Labor’s vote has shrunk by just over three per cent, while the Liberals have gained five per cent and the Greens’ primary vote is up by just over a point.

The primary vote gap over the same period between Labor and Liberal has shrunk from 10 per cent to just 1.7 per cent.

The assembly numbers are currently 12 Labor, 11 Liberal and two Greens across the five electorates of five members each.

At the 2016 election, Labor received a tick more than 38 per cent of the primary vote, while the Liberals scored just less than 37 per cent and the Greens 10.3 per cent.

Alistair Coe, who has led the Liberals since soon after the 2016 election loss, is attempting to bring his party back from the wilderness to become the ACT’s fourth Liberal chief minister.

However, the Liberals’ performance will largely hang on the success of conservative-leaning minor parties as it did back in 1998 when the Greens vote was much weaker.

Two members are retiring at the poll – Liberal veteran Vicki Dunne and the Greens’ Caroline Le Couteur.

Two other changes have occurred since the 2016 election – Liberal Steve Doszpot died in 2017 and was replaced by Candice Burch, while Labor’s Meegan Fitzharris resigned in 2019, replaced by Deepak-Raj Gupta.

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