Australia: The Victorian election highlights the crisis of the two-party system amid the economy’s austerity demands

Tomorrow’s election in Victoria is shaping up to be a major crisis for the political establishment, not just in that state but nationally. The election campaign for parliament in the country’s second largest state has degenerated into a humiliating spectacle of mutual recriminations and dirty mudslinging. Labor and the Liberal-National Coalition, the mechanisms of capitalist rule since World War II, are largely discredited and have lost much of their mass popular support.

Victorian Labor Prime Minister Daniel Andrews speaks at the AEU State Conference. [Photo: AEU Victoria Facebook]

The Victorian election campaign, like almost every recent election in the country, exposed the immense gulf between a political and media establishment that serves the corporate elite and the feelings of working people.

When the election was called last month, it was largely portrayed in the official media as little more than a formality. Prime Minister Daniel Andrews’ Labor government was expected to be easily re-elected after two terms in office amid a historic coalition crisis, which saw its worst result in May’s general election in some seventy years.

Within weeks, those smug calculations were turned on their head. Media polls are notoriously unreliable, but a plethora of them over the past few days tell the same basic story. Primary support for Labor and the coalition is almost identical and it is becoming increasingly unlikely that either will be able to form an independent majority government.

A Resolve Strategic survey conducted for the Age The newspaper, for example, found that Labor and the Coalition each received 36 per cent of the primary vote. The poll shows that 28 percent of voters can vote for “third-party” candidates, including the Greens, smaller parties and a host of independents.

Their numbers have reached record highs, another sign that the power of the two-party system is waning and the electorate is fragmenting. A record 740 candidates are standing for the Legislative Assembly, the lower house of the state legislature, compared with 507 in 2018 and 543 in 2014. For the Legislative Assembly, the upper house of the state legislature, there are 454 candidates available, compared to 380 four years earlier.

As in the federal election, some “blue-green” independent candidates are trying to garner support by posing about the climate crisis while defending the profit system that is at the root of it. The Greens are trying to win several relatively affluent seats in central Melbourne and are calling on Labor to agree power-sharing in the event of a minority government, underscoring once again their character as an establishment right-wing party.

Other independents and smaller parties are speaking out on a variety of grievances related to the environment, the infrastructure crisis and a host of other issues. Some are associated with the right-wing anti-vaccine, anti-lockdown movement, which has been actively incited by sections of the corporate elite as a battering ram against public health measures to combat COVID.

Whatever the outcome, by far the most significant aspect of the election is the Labor Party crisis. The Resolve Strategic poll found the biggest shift compared to the 2018 election was a seven per cent drop in Labor primary support. Separate polls have indicated that Andrews’ own seat could be in jeopardy.

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