The state of Western Australia will go to the polls tomorrow to elect its state Parliament. Western Australia is the largest in area of Australia’s 6 states(about 4 times the size of Texas) and has a population of 2.6 million, slightly smaller than Kansas. Like the federal Parliament and every state except Queensland, it has a bicameral Parliament-a lower house called the Legislative Assembly, where government is formed, and an upper house called the Legislative Council. The 59 members of the Legislative Assembly are elected by districts through a full preferential voting system just like the federal House of Representatives, while the 36 members of the Legislative Council are chosen in 6 regions on a semi-proportional basis by the Single Transferable Vote method.
The current Liberal Party(center-right) government of Premier Colin Barnett has been in office since 2008 and is attempting to win its third term. Unlike at the federal level and in other states, the WA Nationals(who maintain an affiliation with, but a separate identity from the federal Nationals) are not in a formal coalition with the Liberals, although they support the Liberal government. They are opposed by Labor, led by Mark McGowan. Possibly the most interesting facet of this election is it’s the first test of the increasing popularity of One Nation. One Nation, founded and led by Pauline Hanson(an outspoken fan of Donald Trump) is a nationalist, populist party that began in the late 1990s and experienced some electoral success then, but had largely faded from the political scene until last year when they elected 4 Senators(1 from Western Australia) at the federal election, including Hanson. Since then, they have gained in the polls, registering in double digits in some nationwide polls.
The most important moment in the election campaign came last month when the Liberals and One Nation agreed to a preference deal where each would preference the other above other parties. The deal was expected to help the Liberals in the lower house and One Nation in the upper house, where the semi-proportional method of election gives them the best chance to win seats. The move was a huge turnaround for the Liberal Party as they had such disdain for One Nation previously that in 2001 then-Prime Minister John Howard said Liberal voters should preference One Nation last. When the deal was made last month, it was expected to aid both sides by giving the Liberals a fighting chance to retain government despite trailing badly in the polls and give One Nation an opportunity to possibly win enough seats in the upper house to hold the balance of power and even win a few seats in the lower house. As the campaign draws to a close however, the deal seems to be seen more as a desperate attempt by the Liberals to cling to power and has angered some One Nation voters and candidates who don’t like linking up with a mainstream political party. Some One Nation candidates have spoken out against the deal and have even refused to distribute cards guiding their supporters how to mark their preferences and have been disendorsed by the party. The deal has also caused friction between the Liberals and the WA Nationals as it asks Liberal voters to put One Nation ahead of their usual allies. A visit by Pauline Hanson to WA this week has appeared to hurt One Nation too as she made several controversial statements and displayed a lack of knowledge of local issues. Labor, already favored to win has been helped by all of this and now seems to be poised to win in a landslide. They currently hold 20 seats in the Legislative Assembly and need a gain of 10 seats to take control-projections have them possibly gaining as many as 20 seats or more with a double digit swing. A Liberal victory at this point would be considered a huge upset. Analysts will be watching the strength of One Nation support as well to see for its implications for the nation as a whole, and especially for Queensland, Hanson’s home state where One Nation support is strongest and they are expected to have state elections later this year. Results should be clear tomorrow morning in the US-polls close at 6 PM local time or 5 AM EST.
Now for this weekend’s questions:
1. How do you see the upcoming special congressional elections coming out? Do Republicans win all the seats they previously held, or do Democrats pull off an upset or at least come close in any of them?
2. If you could pick one race in 2018 to guarantee a win for your side, what would it be?
And because an act of Congress will change the very fabric of time this weekend….we give you THIS