Labor confident of third term, Liberals still hoping for ‘surprise result’

Victorian election 2022

Labor was last night on track to hold on to power, despite early swings to the Coalition as Victorians faced an anxious wait to see who will form the state’s next government.

As polls closed at 6pm, Labor sources said they were quietly confident that Daniel Andrews would lead his party to a third term and overtake John Cain to become Victoria’s longest-serving Labor premier.

Voters queueing up at Fitzroy Primary School on Friday.Credit:Justin McManus

But several Labor sources told The Age the government was expecting “big swings” against it in outer suburban seats such as Yan Yean, Cranbourne, Narre Warren North and Pakenham.

With only a handful of votes counted, there were small swings towards the Coalition in several seats, with the Liberal and National parties increasingly confident of picking up Bass, Nepean, Mildura and Yan Yean.

But the Liberal Party was nervous about losing the seats of Benambra, Kew and Mornington to independent candidates.

On the final day of polling, thousands of voters in marginal electorates received unsolicited text messages from the major parties in a last ditch bid to win over undecided voters, which was predicted to be as high as 7 per cent in some seats.

The rise of the independents looked set to continue, with a senior source linked to three independent candidates being funded by Climate 200 telling The Age there was confidence about the seats of Mornington, Kew and Benambra, with two more electorates – Hawthorn and Caulfield – also being contested by teal candidates.

More than 1190 candidates nominated in the state election, the most contenders to run in an Australian election.

Going into the election, the Andrews government held 55 out of 88 seats in the Legislative Assembly, with the Coalition on 27.

An exclusive survey conducted by Resolve Strategic for The Age showed Daniel Andrews had lost ground to Matthew Guy as preferred premier.

Resolve director Jim Reed said the Premier had proven to be a drag on Labor’s primary vote with voters marking Andrews down on every key performance measure in the three weeks leading up to the campaign.

In a highly unusual move, Andrews voted on Thursday night alongside wife Catherine and two of his children at a pre-polling booth in the city, tweeting that he had chosen to vote early because he had a “a few things happening” on Saturday.

Instead, he did a blitz of morning television shows and insisted he wanted a “strong, stable majority Labor government” and “no deal” would be offered to secure support from the Greens or other crossbench MPs if Labor loses its majority.

On polling day, Andrews avoided his own seat of Mulgrave, where he is being challenged by several prominent independents, and instead visited a level crossing removal site at Glen Huntly with his son Joseph.

A drive-through voting booth was set up in Melton. Credit:Scott McNaughton

Last night Victorian Liberal senator Jane Hume predicted a “surprise result” similar to 1999 when voters sent a message to former premier Jeff Kennett, robbing him of government.

But former Labor police minister Lisa Neville told Sky, that the “obsession about Daniel Andrews” was not a key issue in the campaign.

“There will be a swing, but the obsession around Daniel has been much more about the Liberal Party and the media and I don’t think it will be as strongly reflected,”

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy voted at Serpell Primary School in his electorate of Bulleen where he was joined by wife Renae and three sons Alexander, Joseph and Sam.

Voters at Fitzroy Primary School.Credit:Justin McManus

Guy said he was confident the Liberals would defy public opinion polls which have Labor winning a third successive term.

“The polling has been all over the place,” he said, adding he had more faith in the party’s own internal research and targeted polls.

“We prefer to look at the targeted [polling] and our own material and own research, rather than just running off broad samples across the whole state,” Guy said.

In the final days of the election both the major parties reported that track polling had the Coalition’s primary vote above Labor’s in several key marginal seats.

“I think Victorians will, at the end of the day, opt for a new government and a fresh start,” Guy said.

In the upper house, the final result is not expected to be known for weeks, with neither side expected to form a majority, and the Greens and minor parties holding the balance of power.

Favourable preference deals with conservative minor parties are expected to boost the LIberal Party’s numbers in the Legislative Council with party sources telling The Age it was confident of picking up three extra spots.

Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam remained hopeful her party could double its numbers in the lower house with the minor party confident of picking up Richmond, Northcote and Albert Park from Labor.

Early voting showed a 5 per cent swing towards the Greens in Northcote.

“We’ve been talking to thousands of voters over this campaign who want politics done differently, and who are sick and tired of the major parties taking them for granted,” Ratnam said, outside the polling booth at Brunswick East primary school on Saturday morning.

“Voters are saying that they feel like the major parties are ignoring some of the biggest issues bearing down upon them. [They want] stronger action on climate change … and housing affordability.”

The Victorian Electoral Commission said 1.9 million of the 4.4 million Victorians enrolled had cast their ballot ahead of election day.

But voters in the state seat of Narracan will have to return to the polls next years after the National Party’s candidate died during the campaign.

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