World

Australian prime minister sets election for May 18

SYDNEY Australia's Prime Minister yesterday called a national election for May 18, firing the starting gun on what promises to be a bare-knuckle campaign focused heavily on climate and the economy.

The vote will decide whether the conservative government gets a rare third term in office - and whether embattled incumbent Scott Morrison can beat the odds and hang on to power.

Polls have consistently shown his centre-left Labor opponents with a commanding lead, suggesting a new administration led by former union leader Bill Shorten.

But Australian elections are often tight affairs, with some two dozen marginal seats deciding the outcome.

Both party leaders have low approval ratings and have struggled to connect with voters.

Mr Morrison took office less than a year ago in a coup by the hard right of his Liberal party and has struggled to bridge a divide between party moderates and nationalist populists who have grown in confidence in the age of US President Donald Trump.

Mr Morrison has tried to paper over these divisions and make sure the campaign focus is squarely on the party's economic record.

"We live in the best country in the world," Mr Morrison said making the election announcement in Canberra. "Our future depends on a strong economy," he said. "Who do you trust to deliver that strong economy?"

Labor for its part has zeroed in on centrist voters frustrated that they elected a moderate in former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull only for the Liberals to swap horses midstream to the more hard-line Mr Morrison. - AFP

WORLD