Australia has seen a huge turnover in its political leadership with five prime ministers in as many years, with most of the changes occurring not due to national elections but because of political backstabbing and intrigue within parties that have unseated party leaders. (In the parliamentary system, the prime minister is not directly elected but is the person who commands the majority of party members in parliament.)
We may now see yet another change because Kerryn Phelps, s popular independent candidate, won a by-election in Sydney, defeating the Liberal party candidate Dave Sharma and thus erasing the one-seat majority that the ruling Liberal party had. This seat had been held by the last prime minister Malcolm Turnbull who resigned his seat following his ouster due to maneuvering by other people in his own party who installed Scott Morrison as prime minister.
In Australia, the Liberals are the right wing party and in the waning days of the campaign had tried to retain the seat by pandering to the substantial number of Jewish voters who live in that particular district.
Controversy was stoked during the by-election race by the prime minister’s proposal that Australia could follow the US and move its embassy to Jerusalem.
Mr Sharma is the former Australian ambassador to Israel and first proposed such a move.
Around 13% of Wentworth’s voters are Jewish, compared to less than 0.5% of the Australian population as a whole.
Kerryn Phelps has said any decision on recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital must take into account trade, security and defence considerations.
But that pandering effort failed to deliver the goods and Phelps won comfortably.
The Liberals currently depend upon some independent members of parliament to stay in power and already two have said they are not going to support the current prime minister Morrison. Elections are due next May but the government may now collapse even earlier if it loses a major vote in parliament.