Aussie PM Pledges More Conservative Government After Near Election Loss

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CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s prime minister said Wednesday he will name a more rightwing cabinet lineup next week after his weakened coalition government scraped through one of the nation’s closest ever elections.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s center-right Liberal Party lost at least 14 lawmakers in knife-edge polls on July 2, including some of Turnbull’s key moderate supporters. The junior coalition partner, The Nationals, gained a lawmaker.

Turnbull said that the Nationals’ larger representation in his government entitled the more conservative, rural-based coalition partner to two additional seats in his cabinet.

“Politics is governed by the iron laws of arithmetic and plainly the Nationals have a larger percentage of the coalition party room after the election than they did beforehand,” Turnbull told reporters.

The Nationals’ increased influence has reduced expectations that Turnbull will pursue a more progressive agenda during the government’s second three-year term.

The cabinet will be announced shortly after government lawmakers meet Monday for the first time since the election, Turnbull said.

Turnbull, a moderate in the government, replaced the polarizing and socially conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott in an internal government showdown in September. Turnbull immediately fired some of Abbott’s most rightwing ministers.

Turnbull’s supporters had hoped that a convincing election victory would give him a mandate to reform government policy in several areas, including climate change and gay marriage.

Some mail-in votes are still being counted with the government assured of 76 seats — the barest majority in the 150-seat House of Representatives where parties form the government.

Turnbull said Wednesday he was confident his government would extend that majority to 77 seats.

Turnbull said his government’s policies remained the same as were detailed during the election campaign, including a promise to hold a public vote this year on whether Australia should recognize same-sex marriage.