ANALYSIS-Australian Prime Minister, behind in polls and beset by division, faces difficult road to re-election

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Band Colin Packham

CANBERRA, December 6 (Reuters)A chaotic parliamentary session has left Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison seeking a reset as his Tory coalition lags in opinion polls and internal wrangling derails his legislative platform less than six months before the election.

Morrison had planned to use the final sitting of 2021 to pass bills that would create marked differences with the opposition Labor Party, including a controversial religious freedom bill that was promised after coming into force. force of same-sex marriage.

Instead, the last two weeks of parliament saw its coalition fracture, as its own lawmakers crossed the floor to vote against the government, forcing delays on the religious freedom bill and other laws, maybe until after the election.

“The events of the past few days have shown that the government may indeed be unable to govern until the next election,” said Haydon Manning, professor of political science at Flinders University in South Australia.

“He cannot pass a law and the prime minister will have to decide whether to wait or call an early election.”

With little time for Morrison to turn the tide, as he is due to go to the polls by May 2022, the PM has embarked on a series of unofficial campaign events.

This is not a new situation for Morrison – three years ago, he had just become Prime Minister after his predecessor was beaten in a ballot in a village hall and he was lagging behind in the elections. surveys. Still, he won a superb electoral victory in May 2019.

The closely watched Newspoll on Monday showed that Morrison’s coalition government would lose office in favor of Labor. That, and a budget slated for late March, suggests Morrison will be leaving his race as late as possible, just like he did in 2019.

ISSUES OF INTEGRITY

Divisions within the Morrison government over issues such as the religious freedom bill and climate policy have arisen despite his calls for unity.

He warned his backbenchers last week that election fractures would cost dearly, a source close to his comments said at a meeting of his ruling Liberal Party.

Morrison is also struggling to attract female voters, polls show. The government has been damaged after allegations this year of rape in Parliament, fueled by criticism of how senior government lawmakers handled the complaint.

Spurred on by public anger, Morrison commissioned a report on workplace culture from parliament. Posted last week, it showed that one in three people who worked there had been sexually harassed.

The problem escalated when the education minister stepped down last week pending an investigation into allegations of abusive behavior during an extramarital affair with a staff member, accusations the minister said. strongly denied. L4N2SN0XZL4N2SL15T

Morrison was also injured in attacks on his integrity after French President Emmanuel Macron said the prime minister lied to him about a canceled submarine deal.

Labor has used Parliament to repeatedly raise questions about Morrison’s credibility and reliability, and the issue appears to have gained traction with voters. L4N2RR0V1

Morrison admits he is the underdog of the election, but government sources say he’s confident he can repeat the miracle victory of 2019.

“He’s a good activist, he has that feeling that everyone has for him, and people like him in key parts of the country,” said Peter Chen, professor of political science at the University of Sydney. “He can certainly change that.”

(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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