Election posters are seen outside a polling station during the Wentworth by-election in Bondi Beach of Sydney, October 20, 2018. (Photo:VCG)
Just months after wrestling control of his party's leadership, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison now leads a minority government.
The race for the Sydney seat left vacant by former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was won by independent candidate Kerryn Phelps on Saturday, which means the government has lost its one vote majority in Parliament.
“There would be a shock to the liberal government even though they know they will almost certainly win it back in the general election,” said Stewart Jackson, a political science lecturer in the University of Sydney.
“The fact that they are losing it just now places them under more pressure. They then have to rely entirely on the cross bench to pass any policy or any new legislation and that is not a place that they necessarily want to be, it makes it difficult to prosecute your own policy agenda.”
Analysts said voter resentment over Turnbull being ousted as Prime Minister, and his subsequent resignation from Parliament, helped propel Phelps to victory over liberal candidate Dave Sharma in the affluent, Sydney harborside electorate that the liberal party won convincingly in the last election.
While Phelps said she had no intention to bring the government down, Jackson said the loss will make life much more difficult for Morrison's government.
“We saw it with Julia Gillard having to hammer out an agreement with the cross bench so it is certainly not unheard of for governments to be in minority and to have to rely on cross bench votes. This government could be the same but it makes it more difficult and it means that they don't have open slather to prosecute their own policy agenda," said the lecturer.
"They've had problems already in the Upper House, in the Senate and their negotiations have generally been not as good as they could have been and certainly, they have not locked in alliances in the Upper House, that is to their own downfall as it were, certainly their own problem, perhaps they have learnt lessons from this, who knows," Jackson added.