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Australian PM inches ahead in poll count
[SYDNEY] Embattled Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's conservative coalition seemed "absolutely certain" to emerge as frontrunner following the general election, a leading analyst predicted on Wednesday, and may even secure a majority.
Turnbull's ruling Liberal/National coalition will hold at least 73 seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Antony Green said as counting continued.
Parties need 76 seats for a majority in Canberra's lower house of parliament.
With five seats still too close to call, Mr Green said he was "absolutely certain" that the government would win more seats than the opposition Labor Party and could get to the 76 needed to claim victory.
"I think they can get to 76," Mr Green told Radio National.
"Seventy-three is a definite, 74 is also likely, 75 is possible, 76 is less possible."
Labor is forecast to win at least 67 seats, with crossbenchers from minor parties and independents expected to hold at least five, meaning they could hold the balance of power.
Mr Turnbull, who Tuesday took full responsibility for the dismal election campaign, has said he believes he will be able to form a government without the help of these crossbenchers.
The 61-year-old millionaire former banker, who called the election early in a bid to shore up his power, has dismissed the idea of quitting, saying his job was to "get on and govern".
But he acknowledged that the government needed to "listen very carefully to the concerns of the Australian people expressed through this election".
"The Australian people have voted, and we respect the result," he said.
Mr Turnbull became prime minister in September after ousting unpopular predecessor Tony Abbott in a party room vote in a bid to put the government in a position to win this year's election.
But after a protracted eight-week campaign focusing on "jobs and growth", Mr Turnbull was unable to comprehensively win the support of the nation of 24 million.
When he became prime minister in 2015, Mr Turnbull was the nation's fourth leader in two years following a turbulent period in which sitting leaders were ousted by their own party.
The new member for the Sydney seat of Macarthur, Labor candidate Mike Freelander, said Mr Turnbull's rise to power may have impacted the election outcome.
"People here didn't like Malcolm Turnbull, particularly because he rolled Tony Abbott," he told The Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday. "They liked Tony Abbott in many ways."
The Australian Electoral Commission, which is completing the painstaking task of counting postal votes and those cast by people outside their normal electorates, has given little indication of when the vote count be complete.
It said on Wednesday that "some close seats will become clearer this week".