MELBOURNE/SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison thanked his fellow Pentecostal churchgoers on Sunday after a miraculous election victory that defied years of unfavourable opinion polls and bruised a Labor opposition that had been widely expected to win.
Morrison’s Liberal-led conservative coalition has won or is leading in 76 seats, the number needed to form a majority government, according to the Australian Electoral Commission. A little more than three-quarters of the roughly 17 million votes cast in the Saturday polls have been counted.
Morrison told raucous supporters late on Saturday, who had earlier seemed resigned to defeat, that he had always believed in miracles.
The result drew comparisons with Republican Donald Trump’s victory over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were among the first world leaders to congratulate Morrison.
“Congratulations to Scott on a GREAT WIN,” Trump said on Twitter before calling the Australian leader..
Jacinda Ardern, the progressive prime minister of neighbouring New Zealand, also called to congratulate him, saying that Morrison “understands us”.
Opinion polls in Australia had all pointed to a Labor victory. So strong was the expectation the government would fall that one betting agency even paid out bets on a Labor win days before the election.
Morrison, who emerged as an unlikely leader after Liberal party infighting last year, cast himself as the candidate who would work for aspirational voters and the tactic seemed to strike a chord.