Independent candidate and longtime LGBTIQ rights campaigner Dr Kerryn Phelps have claimed victory in the Wentworth by-election, but the counting of postal ballots on Sunday has seen her lead narrow to less than 1000 votes.
On Saturday night, Phelps was on track to defeat Liberal candidate Dave Sharma in the by-election to replace former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that has seen a dramatic swing against the Liberal party of between 18 and 19 per cent.
In a twist, updates to the tally by the Australian Electoral Commission on Sunday morning showed Sharma had narrowed Phelps’ lead to 884 votes on a two-party basis.
ABC’s election guru Antony Green said on Sunday, “This morning they’ve put in about 5,000 postal votes [and] they’ve broken very heavily towards Dave Sharma.
“There’s been dramatic narrowing since we went off the air last night.
“What looked home and hosed last night is actually much narrower… I would still say Kerryn Phelps is ahead and still favoured.”
The postal votes was the biggest “turnaround” he had seen in and the more than 4,000 postal votes still outstanding “may be enough to turn the result around” Green said.
On Sunday afternoon, Dr Phelps tweeted that she and her campaign team were “holding our breath for the AEC count.”
“This is a white knuckle ride,” she wrote.
“Whatever the outcome, I am enormously proud of the work of my volunteers and the campaign team.”
Holding our breath for the AEC count. This is a white knuckle ride.
Whatever the outcome, I am enormously proud of the work of my volunteers and campaign team. #WentworthVotes
— Prof Kerryn Phelps AM (@drkerrynphelps) October 21, 2018
#1 of 2: At close of counting last night ballot papers were securely packaged & moved from polling places to a single central location for further processing and related activity today. New postal count data was entered into the AEC’s online tally room this morning.
— AEC (@AusElectoralCom) October 21, 2018
2 of #2: A new postal count will occur mid-afternoon. Checks of all votes must occur by law & will progress into next week.
— AEC (@AusElectoralCom) October 21, 2018
On Saturday night, Dr Phelps thanked her wife Jackie Stricker-Phelps during her victory speech at the North Bondi Surf Life Saving Club.
“Just a few weeks ago I was told this was an impossible task and if we actually managed to win the seat of Wentworth, it would be a miracle,” she said.
“This has been a David and Goliath struggle.
“This is a great moment for Australian democracy. This win tonight should signal a return of decency, integrity and humanity to the Australian government.
“And let’s hope for a bit of common sense on climate action.”
Both Sharma and Labor candidate Tim Murray conceded defeat on Saturday night.
The large swing against the Liberal party is a shocking result as they and former incarnations of the party have held the seat of Wentworth since Federation.
On Saturday night, Prime Minister Scott Morrison praised Liberal candidate Dave Sharma and said the vote reflected the electorate’s anger at the removal of Malcolm Turnbull two months ago.
“The result today is on us, the Liberals, not on Dave Sharma,” Mr Morrison said.
“The Liberal Party has paid a big price tonight for the events of several months ago.
“But as a party, we will continue to rise again.”
Commentator and former Labor power broker Grahame Richardson told Sky News on Saturday night the result was history-making and “never has a by-election been this bad.”
“People who are worth huge sums of money here, all they’ve done is thrown the Liberal Party out in terms I find extraordinary. These people are people who are politically engaged,” he said.
“The Liberal Party brand is damaged now.”
“I’ve never seen a result like this, in 50 years of being in the game… and I’m finding it too hard to believe.”
The son of former Prime Minister and local member Malcolm Turnbull has campaigned against the Liberal Party. This is during the by-election while his father has maintained stoic silence in New York.
Alex said in a tweet he was “proud of the people of Wentworth” and called the result “a great day for Australian democracy.”
Incredible result and proud of the people of Wentworth. A hearty congratulations to @drkerrynphelps who fought a great campaign. A great day for Australian democracy.
— Alex Turnbull (@alexbhturnbull) October 20, 2018
Dr. Kerryn Phelps AM is the first woman or LGBTIQ person elected president of the Australian Medical Association.
Dr Phelps became a member for the Order of Australian in 2011.
She was previously Deputy Lord Mayor of the Council of the City of Sydney.
Dr Phelps received homophobic emails that claimed she had withdrawn from the by-election due to a HIV diagnosis.
“Please DO NOT vote for her, just choose Liberal candidate Dave Sharma as your top choice only,” read the email.
This was condemned by both candidates and is a complaint to the Australian Electoral Commission by Phelps.
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