Howard loses; Kevin Rudd the new Prime Minister
John Howard has lost his last political battle. The trend in the polls shows that Kevin Rudd will be the new Australian PM. Andrew Bolt who is a conservative Australian blogger, calls its for Rudd. We have the moment the election seemed decided memorialized at Tim Blair's. Howard has now has called Rudd and conceded.
Here's how the Australian political system functions, courtesy of one of Tim Blair's commenters, who explains things in a lucid fashion.
Some of the basics: We have a house of Reps, and a Senate, similar to the US model.
The leader of the party that has the majority in the Reps becomes Prime Minister and leads the administration.
The two main parties are the ALP, Australian Labor Party, similar to the AFL-CIO faction of the US Democrats, and the Liberal/National coalition, similar to the right wing faction of the US Democrats. The Greens are increasingly a 3rd force, and there are usually one or two independants, often the equivalent of the US Republicans.
Voting is compulsory, and always on a weekend.
The real difference is the preferential voting, where candidates are numbered in order of preference.
This means that I can vote for the two senate candidates of the Liberty and Democracy party as 1 and 2, knowing they haven’t got a hope, then 3 and 4 for the Liberals, and not have my vote wasted.
Parties recommend that preferences flow certain ways based on pre-election deals - “we put you number 2, and you return the favour” basically.
So if 3 out of 4 Greens preferences go to the ALP, the Greens get 80 votes, the ALP 300, the Libs 320, final result after “distribution of preferences” is ALP 300+60, Libs 320+20, giving victory to the ALP on preferences.
With all the complication of the vote counting, it can take a while for the final result to be known. Fortunately, we have some really, really good counting programs, it’s the data entry and checking that takes the time.
What this likely means for US-Australian relations is described in an anticipatory article by Peter Day at Pajamas Media. The mood among the Labor supporters pretty much resembles that of Pelosi's supporters after their Congressional win.
In the end, Howard's loss probably has to be put down to hubris. His margin over Labor and the Left was always much thinner than his oversized image seemed to indicate. His image was so oversized, in fact, that it probably kept a new generation of leaders from rising within his party. On the other hand, Labor ran through a succession of losers until they came to Rudd, who realized he had to run to the right of his predecessors. That cut away Howard's already thin cushion. I guess he thought the old magic would pull him through. But tonight, the magic deserted him. Howard will probably lose even his own seat of Bennelong to a celebrity Labor candidate.
Most readers can probably make a fair guess of what might happen next. The chances are we'll be looking at Kevin Rudd reprising Nancy Pelosi. The end of the Howard era may be a good thing in the end. Labor will ultimately provide the energy for its own downfall, as the Liberals (Howard's party) did theirs.
I've learned over time not to get too disappointed about anything. Looking back, I can remember the long fight against Marcos. So long it seemed it would never end. Most of us can still recall how dim things seemed only a few months ago, not only looking toward Iraq but pretty much everywhere. But that was then; and this is now.
So in a little bit I'm going to go and swill down a beer and think of old times. The guys who missed dodging that last raindrop. The day no one got off the bus. And as for old John Howard, well, he had a good run.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his Gods.