It was clear here in Washington, DC by the morning of Saturday, August 21 that the Australian election outcome was as clear as mud. No party won the needed 76 seats in Parliament to form government. Worse still no single minor party won enough seats in the lower house for form a single negotiating bloc. It's left to either the ALP or the Coalition to negotiate with individual independents in an effort to form government.
Not since 1940 has there been a hung Federal Parliament. Hung Parliaments, minority governments and the political negotiation that goes with them are nothing new to democracy, however. Look at Italy and Israel. Closer to home look across the ditch New Zealand Parliamentarians negotiate over the formation of government. There is life after a hung Parliament.
Australia joins the United Kingdom and the United States as deeply divided countries. And like the UK, Australia will share the experience of a negotiated government. Thus far, in the UK, it appears to be working. Australia, however, does not have the same crisis of debt and recession found in the UK. Perhaps the sense of crisis keeps the UK Conservatives and Liberals together. Whereas in Australia, there is no similar sense of crisis. Will whoever forms government be able to keep things together?
Hidden by the fury over who will form government is a greener revolution. The Australian Greens now hold the balance of power in the Senate. They also have a member in the lower house. Even if the Abbott led Coalition comes to power, they must negotiate with a significantly more left-leaning Senate. The ebullient Green Party may just turn the worm in Australian politics.
And while the Greens may be feeling their oats, reprisals and recriminations are in store for both the deeply divided Liberals and the ALP. While the ousting of Kevin Rudd is in more recent memory, the Liberals have been equally divided. On the ALP side severals NSW politicians have already begun to rail against perceived wrongs. As for the Liberals, Tony Abbott is the third leader since 2007. Recall Tony Abbott won the leadership spill against Turnbull by 42 to 41. Divisions in the Liberal Party run deep, but may be tempered for the moment with the prospect of forming government.
Many commented that the election of 2010 was without form and dull. That seems largely true, but the hung Parliament and looming negotiations make up for it. Hang on to your hat.