The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) is STILL counting postal and absentee votes on Wednesday morning as Australia waits to find out who its next Prime Minister is -- and we may not know until at least Friday.
We were told that a result could be declared as early as Tuesday -- although the Senate count could take up to five weeks to be finalised -- but Tuesday came and went, and we are still no closer to finding a winner. Of course, if neither major party secures the requisite 76 seats to form a majority government and a hung Parliament results, the wait could get a whole lot longer.
The quick version? As at 10am on Wednesday July 6, the AEC's provisional results currently say the Liberal-National Coalition has won 70 seats, the Labor Party has 71 seats, the Greens have one, the Nick Xenophon Team have one, and three other independents (Bob Katter, Andrew Wilkie and Cathy McGowan) have also won seats, while four remain "not yet determined".
Of the seats "not yet determined", three are currently held by Liberal MPs, while the fourth seat, Grayndler, is held by Labor's Anthony Albanese. Nationwide, it is an incredibly close race between Labor and the Coalition, with 5.007 million and 4.967 million votes respectively (as at 6am Tuesday July 5). This represents a 3.69 percent swing towards the Labor Party compared to the last election, when Tony Abbot won office.
But it's more complicated than that. Bear with us.
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Usually we know the result of an election a few hours after polls close. The initial results of the votes, counted on the night by the AEC, give us a pretty good indication of who the winner is, so by some point late in the evening, one party leader has conceded defeat and the other has claimed victory. It didn't go that way on Saturday, with the results too close to call in a number of seats, and with neither Labor nor the Coalition winning enough seats outright to seize government (they need 76 of the 150 seats to claim victory) it meant we settled in for a long wait.
At this stage, the AEC is still counting a lot of ballots. Not just the millions that were submitted on election day, but the record number (2.54 million) that were submitted at pre-poll, through postal votes or absentee ballots. This election is so close in a number of crucial seats, that even a hundred votes here or there could make a difference. In 2013, for instance, Clive Palmer won his seat of Fairfax by around 50 votes; which shows how careful the counting needs to be.
The AEC numbers we outlined above are, we stress, provisional results and may yet change. As the count continues, they may change, just like the figures you saw on television during election night. As the AEC says on their website, "0 of 150 House of Representatives seats have been declared" -- meaning all the results thus far are only provisional, not yet official.
So, the million dollar question -- what happens now? Well, the AEC says 5000 staff will be working to get a result as quickly as possible, collecting postal votes and counting pre-polls. It is likely we could be days away from a result, with some experts claiming it won't be until Friday at the earliest.
While the result should be known long before that, the final deadline is August 8, by which time Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove must have received the returned elections writs.
It will be a nervous wait for both Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten. Both have been scouting around the independents and minor parties, with a high chance that neither Liberal nor Labor will reach the required 76 seats and have to scramble to get the support of others to form minority government. There have also been rumblings of leadership challenges to both leaders, as their fellow MPs await their parties' fates.
It will make the likes of Xenophon quite a powerful figure in the parliament.
If you want to check out the results yourself (which are being updated regularly, as more votes are counted) check out the AEC's tally room online here.