SYDNEY – Australia’s ruling Labor Party is heading for a huge defeat in elections this year, according to the first national polls Monday since Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced a vote would be held in September.
Labor ministers insisted a win was still possible as major surveys suggested Gillard’s gamble to announce the election early was backfiring, with one showing her party slumping behind the conservatives by a yawning 16-point margin.
A Newspoll for The Australian newspaper showed Labor’s single party support plunged 6 points to 32 percent, while the opposition strengthened 4 percentage points to 48 percent, in the past three weeks. On a two-party basis, taking into account alliances with minor parties, the coalition holds a 56 percent to 44 percent lead in the poll of 1,163 people. A separate poll of 1,015 voters in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, conducted over the weekend, showed a similar headache for Labor, with the coalition having a 54-to-46 lead on a two-party basis.
Since calling a nearly eight-month election campaign, Gillard has endured a turbulent time, with two of her most senior ministers resigning and an ex-Labor MP arrested on fraud charges. But Labor figures rallied behind her Monday in a television and radio blitz.