Aus PM votes in photo-finish election
Melbourne - Australia's embattled prime minister Julia Gillard, who came to power just eight weeks ago, cast her vote on Saturday in a photo-finish election that could end her government's short rule.
The centre-left leader, who ousted predecessor Kevin Rudd in a party coup in June, was mobbed by photographers and members of the public as she voted in her Melbourne electorate of Lalor, near her suburban home.
"I've very, very happy to be back in Melbourne. Obviously this is a tough, tight, close contest, but I'm exercising my own vote," she said before slipping her voting papers into a box in a crowded school hall.
Labor Party leader Gillard and conservative rival Tony Abbott were neck-and-neck in a key opinion poll on Saturday, with Labor's early lead reduced to a 50.2 to 49.8% advantage over Abbott's Liberal/National coalition.
With Abbott having obliterated Labor's dominance during the bitter five-week campaign, the battle for power is being fought on Saturday in a handful of marginal seats in the eastern states of Queensland and New South Wales.
Gillard's defeat would mark the first time in nearly 80 years that a government had been thrown out after only one term and return the coalition to power just three years after their last 12-year stint in government.
Many voters are disillusioned with what they see as a lack of leadership and vision in the two major parties, a discontent that is expected to result in a vote bounce for the minor Greens party.