SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has extended his lead as the country’s favorite leader but his government could still lose the federal election next month, a poll showed on Monday, the first day of the official campaign.
A poll for the Australian newspaper showed Morrison gaining a point to 44%, while opposition leader Anthony Albanese was down 3 points to 39%, the biggest lead the prime minister has held over his rival since February .
Australia will hold a general election on May 21, Morrison said on Sunday, sparking a campaign that is expected to play out over cost-of-living pressures, climate change and issues of major party trust and jurisdiction.
Even though Morrison’s personal ratings have held steady, his conservative Liberal National Party coalition could lose 10 seats and election to the centre-left Albanese Labor Party, which leads 53-47 on a bipartisan preferential basis, according to the survey. The government has a one-seat majority in the lower house of parliament.
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A separate survey carried out on Monday for the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper predicted the ruling coalition could lose at least 14 seats, including those deemed safe in the resource-rich states of Queensland and Western Australia.
Labor could return to power for the first time since 2013 if it wins some of the key electorates, with Morrison launching his election campaign from the marginal seat of Gilmore as he prepares to spend six weeks on the road before the vote.
“This election… is about a choice,” Morrison said during a Monday press briefing, and described Albanese’s leadership as “untested and unknown.”
“It’s a choice between strong economic management and strong financial management … in contrast to a Labor opposition that Australians know can’t be trusted to handle the money.”
Albanese dismissed Morrison’s attacks on his experience as a leader saying he was “ready to rule”.
“We saw a government only concerned about the cost of living until the election,” Albanese told Channel Seven.
(Reporting by Renju Jose; Editing by Sam Holmes)
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