The group that could knock an election landslide out of the hands of Victorian Prime Minister Daniel Andrews

This article was first published in The Conversation the week before the state election.

It is now just five days until the final day of voting in the Victorian general election.

Much of the campaign’s focus has been on the Legislative Assembly or House of Commons. To win government, a party or coalition of parties must win a majority of seats in that chamber.

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In the last state election in 2018, Labor won 55 of the 88 seats, while the Liberal-National coalition got just 27 seats.

Like other jurisdictions, COVID-19 has had a major impact on Victoria. In response to the pandemic, the Andrews government introduced a range of policies aimed at limiting community transmission of the virus. These included lengthy lockdowns, curfews and restrictions on how far people could travel from their homes.

Victorian Prime Minister Daniel Andrews and his wife Catherine. Recognition: Joel Cararrett/AAP

While Victorian political debate seemed more polarized during this period, opinion polls have consistently favored a third consecutive victory for the Dan Andrews-led Labor Party.

In contrast, the coalition appears to be struggling to garner support despite being out of government for eight years.

The decision to bring Matthew Guy back as leader of the Liberal Party last year should give momentum to the opposition ahead of the election.

Based on recent polls, Guy appears to have stymied voters from leaving the coalition, but the opposition is still trailing Labor on the all-important measure favored by two parties.

Small parties and new challengers

While the big parties remain the focus of campaign coverage, smaller parties are also working to increase their representation in the House of Commons.

The Greens currently hold three inner-city seats: Melbourne, Prahran and Brunswick. Two of these seats have very fine edges. Melbourne is held at just 1.6 percent while Brunswick’s margin is 2 percent.

In addition to defending those seats, the Greens are hoping to win Richmond, another inner-city electorate held by Labor at 5.8 percent. The seat is currently held by Labor Secretary Richard Wynne, who will retire after 23 years.

Victorian Greens Deputy Leader Ellen Sandell and Leader Samantha Ratnam. Recognition: Joel Cararrett/AAP

This opens up opportunities for the Greens to advance further in the Victorian Parliament.

There is also keen interest in how the ‘teal’ independents will fare. In May’s federal election, blue-green Liberal Party candidates Kooyong and Goldstein won.

There is an expectation that they could win seats in eastern metropolitan areas including Kew, Hawthorn and Caulfield, which were once safe voters for the Liberal Party.

This election offers the Blue-Greens an opportunity to solidify themselves in Australian politics, if they can also win state representation.

The House of Lords

The state’s upper house consists of 40 MPs, with five MPs elected from each of the eight regions of the Legislative Council. In the last election, Labor won 18 seats while the coalition won 11.

The proportional voting system for choosing candidates is similar to that used in the Senate prior to 2016. To win, a candidate must receive 16.7 percent of the vote in the region in which they are running.

In addition, the controversial System Group Voting Ticket (GVT) is used to elect candidates. This means voters can simply indicate their preferred party above the line on the ballot. Their preferences are then distributed according to the preference streams designed by the party.

While this makes voting straightforward, the GVT system has been criticized for giving parties too much power to dictate where votes go through preferential agreements.

Of course, voters can also vote below the line by numbering at least five boxes.

Victorian opposition leader Matthew Guy. Recognition: Jacob Ross/AAP

In the last election, the Greens won just one seat thanks to poor preferential flows. In contrast, parties with favorable preferential deals were able to win representation in the country’s upper house. These included the Liberal Democrats, Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party, the Reason Party, and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party.

The use of the GVT system has also come under scrutiny after so-called “preference whisperer” Glenn Druery, who has regularly drafted favorable preferential agreements for parties, was shown on video talking about these deals.

Regardless of the debates surrounding the GVT, it remains a feature of the Victorian system and could be used in future state elections provided no changes are made to the voting system after that election.

Therefore, the final result of the Upper House elections could replicate the existing result, which would mean that neither major party controls the chamber and has to work with MPs to form a majority.

the final Countdown

Opinion polls keep pointing to a Labor victory in Victoria. If successful, Andrews could become the state’s longest-serving prime minister since John Cain Jr., another Labor leader, held the post from 1982 to 1990.

A third straight defeat for the Liberals in Victoria is likely to prompt further introspection and analysis within the party about its political agenda and leadership.

With many Victorians voting early, the future of government and the state’s party system will be revealed when the count begins on Saturday night.

Zareh Ghazarian is Senior Lecturer in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University.

Daniel Andrews ranted during the press conference.

Daniel Andrews ranted during the press conference. The group that could knock an election landslide out of the hands of Victorian Prime Minister Daniel Andrews

James Brien

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