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Australia’s John Howard Ousted in Election

Posted November. 26, 2007 03:14,   


Australia’s opposition labor party claimed a landslide victory in the general election yesterday, ending the conservative government’s 11-year rule and paving the way for a center-left administration.

Kevin Rudd, Australia`s new prime minister and the leader of the labor party, brought about a number of promises which are totally different from those of pro-American John Howard, which is expected to cause changes in Australia’s diplomatic and environmental policies.

Labor won 83 of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives by gaining 53 percent of the total number of votes as of November 25, according to the Australian Election Commission. The Liberal-National coalition led by the outgoing Prime Minister John Howard had 47 seats or 46.6 percent of the vote. Howard accepted responsibility for the defeat.

Howard, who took office in 1996, is Australia`s second-longest serving leader with 11.5 years in office. Claiming credit for the nation’s consistent economic development, Howard confronted pressure to resign with a promise of early general election during his next term, but he failed to convince voters who were bored with his policies.

He also lost seat his parliamentary seat representing his home electorate of Bennelong, which he has held for the past 33 years. It is the first time in 78 years in Australia’s premiership history that the incumbent prime minister lost his seat in his home electorate as well as the premiership, the AP and AFP reported.

Rudd highlighted major differences from John Howard’s policies in his campaign, focusing on ratifying the Kyoto Protocol and pulling troops out of Iraq.

The environment has been the biggest issue in Australia where draught and water shortages are frequent. After the labor party’s victory became clear, the prime minister pledged he would attend a new round of negotiations for post-Kyoto carbon reduction targets slated for next month in Bali. He also vowed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change as soon as possible.

Under its new premiership, Australia’s current pro-American foreign policy is likely to take a drastic turn. If Australia ratifies the Kyoto Protocol Treaty, the U.S. will become the only developed country that has refused to ratify the agreement.

Rudd’s decision to pull out 550 frontline troops from Iraq by the middle of 2008 is also a departure from the current policy. The current Prime Minister Howard has strongly supported America’s war on terrorism. Meanwhile, the new prime minister is likely to maintain closer ties with Asian neighbors. Rudd, who has a close relationship with China, favors conciliatory engagement with other major Asian countries.

Australian political expert John Heart said, “Unlike John Howard, who focused on ties with other western countries, Rudd shows a more progressive approach towards Asian countries, which will serve as a great driving force to enhance relations between Asia and Australia.”

The undergoing reform in the economic sector is likely to slow down. The incumbent government’s reform policies have centered on private businesses, and have been under criticism for triggering unemployment.