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Parties jostle for power

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Parties jostle for power

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CANBERRA, Australia – It could take more than a week to learn who will govern Australia after a cliffhanger election – the closest in nearly 50 years – and the winner may have to woo the support of a handful of independent lawmakers in order to assume power.Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Australia’s first female prime minister who seized power in an internal Labour Party coup only two months ago, said yesterday she would remain the nation’s caretaker leader during the “anxious days ahead” as vote-counting continued.The Australian Electoral Commission website said early yesterday that centre-left Labour and the conservative Liberal Party-led coalition each had 71 seats, meaning neither could achieve the 76-seat majority.“Obviously, this is too close to call,” Gillard told party faithful who gathered yesterday in her hometown Melbourne in the hope of hearing a victory speech. “We will continue to fight to form government in this country,” she said.Liberal leader Tony Abbott said he would immediately begin negotiations with independents to form a government.“We stand ready to govern and we stand ready to offer the Australian people stable, predictable and competent government,” Abbott told supporters at Liberal campaign headquarters in Sydney.Pundits said Australia’s major foreign policy positions, including its deployment of 1 550 troops to Afghanistan, would be unaffected by whichever party wins because both hold similar views. Domestic issues vary across the large and diverse country, including hot topics such as asylum seekers, health care and climate change.An Australian government has not relied on the support of independent lawmakers to rule since 1942. However, that may change after the extremely tight vote. (AP)