Slight chance for Gillard

2010-08-21 11:01

Sydney - Early exit polls taken before polling closed in Australia's cliffhanger general election Saturday showed Prime Minister Julia Gillard's government retaining power with a slim majority.

A Channel Nine exit poll predicted the ruling Labor Party would win the election with 52% of the overall vote to 48 for the opposition Liberal/National coalition, with a small swing towards the opposition.

But the poll also reported an average 5.1 swing against Labor in crucial marginal seats in the most populous states of Queensland and New South Wales where the results will be closer and where the election will be won or lost.

"It all depends on the uniformity of the vote across the country," said David Briggs of the Galaxy polling company, adding that the government would battle to hang onto some crucial marginal seats.

A separate Sky News exit poll also taken before voting was due to to end at 18:00 showed Labor ahead of opposition leader Tony Abbott's party by 51% to 49.

A Newspoll survey published before voting started indicated a neck-and-neck race to the finish line, while a Nielsen survey also showed Labor winning with a 52-48 advantage, which presumed a uniform result across the nation.

Both Gillard, who came to power just eight weeks ago in a party coup, and Abbott spent Saturday morning campaigning in marginal seats in western Sydney in a bid to swing the election towards them.

The first results are expected from around 08:30 GMT but most election analysts predicted a long night of counting before any clear winner emerges.