As expected in Tasmania

There were no big surprises in Saturday’s Tasmanian election. The Covid-induced (if that’s what it is) run of success for incumbents continued, but in a fairly unimpressive fashion. In fact, none of the three parties has much reason to be pleased with the result. (See Friday’s preview here.)

The Liberals can at least say that they won; Peter Gutwein’s government has been returned, although it’s not yet certain that it will retain a majority in its own right. But in contrast to the swings other incumbents have had in their favor, the Liberal vote is down 1.2% to 49.0%, and one of its seats – its second member in Clark – is still in some doubt, although it will probably be held. (Kevin Bonham has more detail on the Clark situation.)

The ALP has even less reason to be happy. Its vote is down further, by 4.4% to 28.2%, and it has lost one of its ten seats (also in Clark). It is now facing the longest period out of office in its history, with a formidable target of four seats to pick up next time to win a majority. (Although, of course, nothing like the size of the task facing the Western Australian Liberal Party.)

The Greens did the best of the three, with a swing of 1.7% taking them to 12.0%. But that was coming off an especially bad result in 2018, and they still only won two seats, narrowly missing out in Bass. They were unable to do better than third in any electorate, although they are snapping at Labor’s heels in Clark.

The only real winners were the independents. Statewide they won 6.3% of the vote (up from only 1.1% in 2018), and two of them in Clark – Glenorchy mayor Kristie Johnston and ex-Liberal MP Sue Hickey – won 21.5% between them. One of the two, almost certainly Johnston, will win a seat, and there’s a slight chance of Hickey getting up as well. In addition, Craig Garland had 6.1% in Braddon despite being in the “ungrouped” section of the ballot paper; not enough for a seat, but enough to give the majors a fright.

Despite its use of proportional representation, Tasmania has never given much joy to minor parties or independents (except, of course, for the Greens). Johnston will be the first from outside the big three to win a seat since the size of the parliament was reduced in 1998. The Shooters also gained slightly, up 0.7% to 3.0%, and the Animal Justice Party debuted with 1.4%.

Even if the second Liberal misses out in Clark, Labor has evidently decided that the prospect of trying to corral the Greens and two independents into some sort of coalition would be too fraught. Opposition leader Rebecca White conceded defeat on the night and is willing to let the Liberals govern in a minority if need be. Gutwein, however, has promised to resign if his party fails to win a majority; that’s happened before, in 1996, when then-premier Ray Groom resigned and let a party colleague, Tony Rundle, govern with the tacit support of the Greens.

Final results will only come through next week after all postal votes have arrived. You can check the latest figures in nice user-friendly form at William Bowe’s Poll Bludger site.

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