SYDNEY, Australia — Voters on Saturday delivered a stinging defeat to the Labor Party led by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, bringing an end to six tumultuous years of leadership and ushering into power a strong conservative Liberal-National coalition.
The opposition leader, Tony Abbott, who made his name as a relentless critic of the policies of Rudd and his predecessor, Julia Gillard, is now in line to become Australia's 27th prime minister when he is sworn in. Rudd, who served as prime minister from 2007 to 2010, returned to leadership in June after a nearly two-year campaign by his supporters culminated in a party coup that ousted Gillard, the first woman to be Australia's prime minister.
But the Labor Party, which abandoned Gillard in the hopes of averting a landslide loss, was ultimately unable to shake the impression that it was more focused on personal feuds than pressing issues like the slowing of Australia's mining-driven economy and the record number of asylum seekers.
The Australian Electoral Commission reported that Labor had captured 54 seats in the next Parliament compared with 91 seats for the coalition, with 94.5 percent of votes counted, a major swing in the 150-seat lower house. The two parties are separated by a razor-thin margin in the current Parliament.
Abbott, a former Roman Catholic seminarian and Rhodes scholar, declared Australia "open for business" again in a victory speech to jubilant supporters at a Sydney hotel.