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Australians vote in hotly contested election

Australians have voted to select their next prime minister. The election has been divisive, with an emphasis on hot-button domestic issues.

Australians went to the polls on Saturday to elect their sixth prime minister in as many years, a sign of the country's ongoing political turmoil.

The conservative coalition government, led by current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (pictured), is facing stiff competition from the center-left Labor Party, whose leader Bill Shorten would become the country's fifth prime minister in three years if he were to win.

"In an uncertain world, Labor offers only greater uncertainty," Turnbull said in the lead-up to the voting. "They have nothing to say about jobs, growth or our economic future."

Labor likewise tried to protray the current government as deeply divided and therefore a threat to Australia's stability.

Australien Wahlen 2016 Antarktik Wahleinheit

Australians at a special Antarctic polling station vote in the national elections

A close race

Issues such as immigration and climate change have taken a back seat during this election. According to Alex Oliver, Research Fellow at the Lowy Institute, the debate has centered mainly on domestic issues like health care.

"The opposition is running a late scare campaign based on an allegation that the government has plans to privatize our public health funding system,"

Oliver told DW

. He also said education was a key issue this year.

On the other hand, the parties don't differe greatly when it comes to foreign policy or even the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.

Though polling says the race is a close one, the numbers also suggest that Labor won't win the necessary number of seats in parliament to win a majority. One poll put the conservative government ahead at 50.5 percent to Labor 49.5 percent.

blc/bw (AFP, AP)

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