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Gillard back as Australian PM

After 17 nerve-racking days of back and forth negotiations Julia Gillard emerged as victor in the Australian federal election by the most slender of margins this afternoon.

With the opposition Liberal/National coalition and Gillard’s incumbent Labor party effectively deadlocked on 74 seats each after the election, the fate of the country’s election was left in the hands of three independent members of parliament.

Two of those, former National party members Rob Oakenshott and Tony Windsor, sided with the government at about 12.45 Phnom Penh time today, handing Gillard’s labor party the 76 votes required to form government.

The third undecided, colorful Queensland MP Bob Katter who is also a former National Party member, broke a previous agreement with his other former party members to vote as single block when he sided with the coalition this morning.

Another independent, former Australian Greens member Andrew Wilkie, and first time Greens MP Adam Bandt, had already committed their support to a minority Labor government days before.

The victory ends a tumultuous election campaign that saw near unprecedented support for the government dwindle following the Labor party's decision to replace Kevin Rudd with his deputy, Julia Gillard, just months before the latter called an election.

Conservative opposition leader Tony Abbott seized on this opportunity to make up ground in the polls, after taking over the helm of the embattled opposition party from his more moderate predecessor Malcolm Turnball.

Key election issues included Labor’s introduction of a 40 percent mining tax - which many observers believe spelled the downfall for Kevin Rudd - climate change and immigration.

Abbott gained strong public support during the campaign pursuing an election strategy that reflected the more traditional conservative values of former PM John Howard.

This included opposing Labor’s “big new carbon tax” – the government’s proposed carbon reduction pollution scheme – and ramping up public opposition to asylum seekers.

The government lead by Gillard sought to mend relationships with the mining sector by granting concessions to the controversial mining tax and pushed forward with their plan to build a superfast new broadband network.

But both parties were criticised during the campaign for failing to show any clear vision for the country's future or coherent election campaign strategy.

The tenuous victory leaves Gillard’s Labor party with an uncertain future as every piece of legislation they propose will be the subject of furious negotiations between strongly conflicting narrow interest groups.

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