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Linksrutsch bringt Rudd ans Ruder / Kevin Rudd becomes Prime Minister

Labor gewann Parlamentswahl in Australien / Parteichef soll neuer Premier werden

Von Boris B. Behrsing, Canberra *

Als sich der australische Bürger am Sonntagmorgen (25. November) den Schlaf aus den Augen rieb, musste er feststellen, dass sich seine politische Umwelt drastisch verändert hatte. Denn die Bundesparlamentswahl vom Vortag hat die Labor-Partei durch einen 5,7-prozentigen Stimmenrutsch nach links an die Regierung katapultiert und die elfeinhalb Jahre dauernde konservative Ära Howard beendet. Der neue Premier Kevin Rudd hatte die Wahl als »Referendum über die Zukunft« des Landes charakterisiert.

Noch steht das Resultat der Briefstimmen aus, aber die Politanalytiker gehen davon aus, dass die Australische Labor-Partei (ALP) im neuen 150-sitzigen Repräsentantenhaus 24 Abgeordnete mehr als die bislang als Koalition regierenden Liberalen und Nationalen stellen wird. Nach der bisherigen Rechnung hat die ALP 82 Abgeordnete im Parlament, die Koalition der Liberalen und Nationalen ist auf 58 Sitze zurückgefallen, während bei acht Sitzen der Gewinner noch unbestimmt ist. Dass 53 Prozent der abgegebenen Stimmen auf Labor entfallen, gilt als Rekord – der größte Links- Stimmenrutsch seit dem Zweiten Weltkrieg. Damit hat Labor-Führer Rudd einen noch größeren Sieg errungen als der frühere Gewerkschaftsbund-Präsident Bob Hawke 1983 mit 53,2 Prozent Stimmen.

Dabei sitzt der 50 Jahre alte Tausendsassa aus dem sonnigen Bundesstaat Queensland, ein ehemaliger Karrierediplomat, erst seit zehn Jahren im Parlament. Die Rolle des Oppositionsführers errang er erst Anfang dieses Jahres, als der in früheren Wahlen erfolglose Labor-Altpolitiker Kim Beazley resigniert das Amt aufgab.

Seitdem ist Rudds Image kometenhaft am Polithimmel aufgestiegen. Sein Vorgänger, der konservative Premierminister John W. Howard, kämpft unterdessen um einen Sitz im Parlament, denn er ist in äußerster Gefahr, den Sydneyer Wahlkreis Bennelong, den er seit 30 Jahren vertreten hat, an Labor zu verlieren, falls ihm die Briefstimmen nicht doch noch einen Rettungsring bieten.

Im Moment sieht es so aus, dass der 68-jährige Howard seinen Wahlkreis an die frühere TVReporterin Maxine McKew abgeben muss, die Labor als Starkandidat gegen den bisherigen Regierungschef aufgestellt hatte. Falls Howard unterliegt, wird er dieses Los als Einziger mit Stanley Bruce teilen, der 1929 auf diese Weise als Premierminister abgesetzt wurde.

Erstmals wird unter Labor einer Frau das zweithöchste Amt des Landes zufallen. Für seine Stellvertretung hat sich Rudd die bewährte Labor-Politikerin Julia Gillard ausgesucht. Sie wird bei Abwesenheit Rudds in Australien als Premierministerin amtieren.

Über die Gründe des Machtwechsels in Canberra werden die Analytiker noch lange debattieren. Eine einfache Erklärung ist die: Während der elfeinhalb Jahre hat die Regierung Howard der Wirtschaft des Landes durch geschickte Politik zu einem anhaltenden Boom verholfen. Sie hat aber in dieser Zeit nicht begriffen, dass die Nation ihre Vorstellungen von Erstrebenswertem modernisiert hat – vor allem, was das Soziale und Moralische betrifft. Der Regierung Howard wurden deshalb auch Visionsarmut, Unehrlichkeit und Schalheit vorgeworfen.

Diese Lücke füllten die Ideen Rudds und seiner Mannschaft mit ihrem Aktionsprogramm

* Aus: Neues Deutschland, 26. November 2007

Howard in Danger of Being First Leader in 78 Years to Lose Seat

By Jacob Greber and Gemma Daley, Sydney **

John Howard said he is likely to lose his seat, becoming the first Australian Prime Minister to be voted out of parliament since 1929 as his 11-year-old government was swept from power.

The 68-year-old Howard, the nation's second-longest serving leader, trailed the Labor Party's Maxine McKew in the Sydney seat of Bennelong by 569 votes with 77 percent of ballots in yesterday's election counted, according to the Australian Electoral Commission.

"It is very unlikely to be the case that I will be the member for Bennelong," Howard told supporters in Sydney as he conceded the election. "I accept full responsibility for the coalition's defeat."

Howard's 33-year political career ended amid a national swing delivering power to 50-year-old Kevin Rudd's Labor Party. His departure costs U.S. President George W. Bush one of his staunchest allies. Howard was one of the first coalition partners to send troops to Iraq in 2003, along with retired British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Japanese leader Junichiro Koizumi.

Nationally, the Labor Party is projected to win 83 seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. The Liberal-National Coalition has 58 seats, with two independents and seven still undecided. The leader of the winning party becomes Prime Minister.

McKew, a 54-year-old journalist, is the "Labor hero of the century" former party leader Kim Beazley said.

Howard's campaign, which centered on promises to extend a 16- year economic expansion, reduce unemployment and cut taxes, was buffeted by the central bank's decision to raise interest rates this month, the first during an election campaign.

Interest Rates

The quarter-point increase lifted the Reserve Bank's benchmark rate to an 11-year high 6.75 percent, and was the sixth since Howard was returned to power in 2004 election on a promise to keep mortgage rates low.

"Interest rates and Labor's campaign on interest rates, made this election difficult for us in mortgage belt seats," Liberal Party Senate leader Nick Minchin told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Howard also faced a backlash against "WorkChoices," a set of laws passed in 2006 making it easier for businesses with less than 100 workers to sack people and cut benefits. Rudd vowed to soften the laws, saying they give employers too much power.

"It hasn't been easy to defend our position on industrial relations," Minchin said. "Clearly that's been damaging."

The last week of his campaign was marred after Liberal Party supporters were caught handing out fake Labor leaflets advocating clemency for the Bali bombers who in 2002 killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.

Climate Change, Iraq

Voters were also angered by Howard keeping 1,575 troops in Iraq and waiting too long to address global climate change.

"He has left it late on climate change," said Ian McAllister, a professor from Australian National University in Canberra, who specializes in voting behavior.

Bush described Howard as a "man of steel" and his "deputy sheriff" in Asia as the pair joined to fight terrorism. Australia also has troops in Afghanistan, where three of its soldiers have been killed in the past two months.

Howard was ousted from office even after presiding over one of the nation's most prosperous periods.

The A$1 trillion ($877 billion) economy has grown at an average pace of 3.5 percent since he took office and the unemployment rate has fallen to a near 33-year low of 4.3 percent. The benchmark stock index has almost tripled during his time in power.

Still, Howard trailed in opinion polls since Rudd became opposition leader almost a year ago, amid a growing sense he stayed in the job too long and had run out of ideas.

Howard may have "outstayed his welcome," said John Warhurst, a political analyst at Australian National University.

Today's defeat shatters his supporters' hopes Howard would stage another comeback, after winning elections in 2001 and 2004 when he was trailing in opinion polls.


"Love me or loathe me, the Australian people know where I stand on all the major issues," Howard said when he announced the election date six weeks ago.

He sought to win support from first-home buyers, already the beneficiaries of a A$7,000 tax-free grant, by pledging extra help to cope with higher mortgage rates and house prices that have tripled since he won office.

He also urged voters to reject Rudd, a former diplomat, saying he was too inexperienced to manage the economy. Rudd countered by arguing Howard had squandered the benefits of the economic boom by failing to invest in infrastructure and education.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald's Pork-o-meter, which tallies the election promises, Howard pledged A$65.4 billion of new spending, while Rudd promised A$54 billion.

'Common Pride'

Rudd paid tribute to Howard.

"I want to acknowledge and recognize Howard's extensive contribution to public service in Australia," he said during his victory speech in Brisbane. "There are big differences between us, but we share a common pride in this great nation of ours."

The son of a Sydney gas station owner and former solicitor, Howard entered parliament in 1974, serving as treasurer for 5 1/2 years in Malcolm Fraser's government.

He once said he'd have to be "Lazarus with a triple bypass" to regain the Liberal Party leadership, having been dumped in 1989, two years after losing an election to Bob Hawke's Labor Party.

He won the post again in 1995, before leading the party to victory in March 1996.

Stanley Bruce was the only other Prime Minister to lose his seat, when his government was defeated in 1929.

November 25, 2007

** Bloomberg.com

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