Australians will cast ballots in five by-elections today, four of which are for seats last held by the opposition Labor Party. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s centre-right Liberals hope to win the marginal seats of Braddon and Longman.
Liberal victories would affirm the governing party’s momentum; its national polling deficit has fallen from 10% to 2% since November. While Turnbull insists the general election will not be held until it is due next year, winning both seats could make an earlier vote more appealing.
Overturning Labor’s 0.8% margin of victory in Longman and 2.2% margin in Braddon would seriously embarrass Labor and party leader Bill Shorten. A loss—potentially the first by-election victories for a ruling party in opposition-held seats in 98 years—would put pressure on Shorten to resign the leadership. Labor needs to hold both seats to have a good night.
The results will likely be close, with no clear favourite in either marginal seat. If Labor holds both, especially if by healthy margins, an early election will probably be off the table. The better the Liberals do, however, the more likely the wait for the next election will be shortened.
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Nicholas is an Italian politics aficionado. Nick brings his knowledge of southern Europe to bear in The Daily Brief team, where he serves as a senior analyst and editor.