ALTHOUGH many local Labor supporters remained quietly confident Member for Eden-Monaro Mike Kelly could shrug off a nationwide swing against his party, the final result is still anyone’s guess.
As the counting of postal votes began on Monday, the incumbent Dr Kelly saw a 4.41 per cent swing against him as voters not only cast votes for the Liberal Party’s Peter Hendy (+3.3 per cent swing), but also to the new kid on the block, Palmer United Party’s Dean Lynch (+5.37 per cent).
As at 4pm Monday, Mr Hendy was ahead of Dr Kelly by just 569 votes in the two candidate preferred vote.
As polls closed on Saturday many political analysts believed Eden-Monaro would finally shed its famous bellwether status and Labor’s Dr Kelly would keep his seat even as his government fell.
However, after the first round of counting, Mr Hendy had pulled in front.
In the Bega Valley, Mr Kelly did better in first preferences than Mr Hendy in the northern part of the shire, while the Liberal Party triumphed in the south.
This was most noticeable in Eden where Dr Kelly only polled 734 votes compared to Mr Hendy’s 1093.
It was the same story in Tura Beach where Mr Hendy was clearly ahead of Dr Kelly 903 to 664; and in the two Merimbula polling booths where Dr Kelly totalled 1264 to Mr Hendy’s 1630.
However, the further north you went in the shire, the more Dr Kelly’s vote strengthened.
In Bega, Dr Kelly had a combined total of 2406 to Mr Hendy’s 2064.
In Cobargo, it was Dr Kelly who garnered the most votes 336 to Mr Hendy’s 303.
In Candelo it was Dr Kelly on 297 to Mr Hendy’s 230; in Bermagui it was a similar story as Dr Kelly polled 659 to Mr Hendy’s 633.
The tightest contest was in Bemboka, where Dr Kelly got 176 votes and Mr Hendy 174.
The widest margin was seen in Tanja, where Mr Hendy got just 31 votes, and Dr Kelly 109.
Despite a widespread feeling of disenchantment with both parties and the political discourse since the 2010 election, the informal vote held steady at 5.33 per cent.
That still equates to 4298 votes, 206 votes more than PUP candidate Mr Lynch (4092) got and just 1216 less than the Greens Catherine Moore’s overall vote (5514).
However, now the fate of Eden-Monaro will be decided by postal votes.
On Monday, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) was set to start a full recount on all the returned booths from Saturday, as well as count postal votes and pre-poll votes from interstate and within the electorate.
Mr Lynch said he felt pre-poll votes would prove interesting.
“It’s in the laps of the gods now,” he said.
“Hendy was preferenced by me and he needed them, but when postal votes went out my how-to-vote cards weren’t out yet.
“I’ve taken a lot of votes from Kelly and the Greens, so who knows, any vote for me could have been preferenced their way not Hendy’s,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Australian Electoral Commission confirmed the result may not be known until September 20.