A center-right coalition of parties has seized victory in Australia’s most populous and urban state. On Saturday, New South Wales (NSW), the Australian state that contains Sydney, held a parliamentary election. The WSJ reports that sitting Premier Mike Baird retained his position after his coalition captured a majority of seats in the parliament’s lower house. Baird is the leader of the Liberal Party in NSW—in American terms, Australian Liberals are politically conservative—and his party joined with the center-right National Party to form the coalition government.
The coalition’s opponents are the Labour Party and the Green Party. Both did better in this election than in the recent past, but neither commanded enough votes to challenge the Liberal-National coalition. This victory is good news for Australia’s center-right coalition, which hasn’t done as well in other parts of the country. Nationally, Prime Minister Tony Abbot leads the Liberal Party (his government is also a Liberal-National coalition), and he’s been having a hard time of it. He’s faced challenges to his leadership from within his own party, and his unpopularity is thought to have fueled recent Liberal Party losses in Queensland and Victoria.
The ability to hold NSW was a crucial test for the center-right coalition, and the Liberals had their work cut out for them. Labour launched fierce attacks on Baird’s plan to partially privatize the state’s electricity. Abbot’s unpopularity was a challenge in NSW as in Queensland and Victoria. And seven Liberal MPs in the state have been affected by hearings over a corruption scandal. That the coalition held on despite all that, if with a reduced majority, suggests that the national outlook for the center-right could also be brighter than thought—and that compulsory voting (which is the law in Australia) doesn’t necessarily favor the left.
Baird is interpreting his victory as a mandate to push forward with the power privatization, and that issue is likely to be a large focus of his government and the popular response to it. If it goes well, the coalition’s future will be in very good shape indeed—at least in the country’s most populous region.