ELECTION LATEST: Another 24 hours of agony for candidates as election count stretches another day

 

Count officials have delayed the Strathfield election results by another agonising day,  blaming a late surge in polling day registration for the problem.

Originally scheduled for 4pm Tuesday, the count will continue until Wednesday afternoon, meaning Liberals won't know if they have secured outright control until then.

Renee Chalmers, the Office Manager of the Burwood Returning Office which looks after Strathfield, Burwood and Ashfield, said there are about 500 Strathfield votes still to be entered into the system. New enrolment votes are those from people who enrolled on election day.

“We didn’t expect it, we ran out of envelopes,” she said. “There were just so many of them.” Delays are being experienced state wide.

Liberal team leader Gulian Vaccari needs to secure four seat to take control of the council and be assured of four years at the helm.

But last night, it was thought as few as 10 votes split the contenders for the final seat on the seven-man council.

Latest predictions have three seats certain for the Liberals, possibly two for Labor's Raj Datta, a seat for Helen McLucas and then either a fourth Liberal or United Strathfield leader Andrew Soulos.

No-one is sure how the Liberals preference deal with the Unity Party impacted their standing, as the Electoral Commission has yet to update figures.

At stake is four years of certainty and a Liberal mayor, or some wheeling and dealing to decide who takes charge.

The Liberals increased their share of the counted vote by almost 15 percent to 44.45 percent, while Labor slumped 10 percent to 23.53 percent as at Tuesday afternoon.

Strathfield First, started by Deputy Mayor Helen McLucas with a strong community focus and an anti-amalgamation stance, garnered almost 18 percent of electors, meaning founder  McLucas will almost certainly serve and could even get a colleague over the line.

She will be the only councillor who has served on Strathfield Council before.

McLucas told Ourstrathfield at the weekend: "We are really thrilled with our result.

"Congratuations to the candidates.  It was a great campaign. The level of doorknocking by the candidates and discussion meant residents were more informed. I have not experienced this in any previous campaign, particular with the younger people.

"Democracy is alive and well in Strathfield. That is a testament to the residents and the level of care and concern they have for Strathfield."

She added: "We are happy to work with all the new Councillors so the residents see the open and transparent Council that has been promised by all candidates.

Cr Paul Barron, who held the mayor's post in the last council, was also on the Strathfield First ticket.  He told Ourstrathfield: "I believe we put on a strong performance in the face of the Liberal surge in other councils."

He said Strathfield First's team had pledged they were "here to stay".

United Strathfield,  led by Business Chamber president Soulos, came in at a respectable seven percent. 

Labor team leader Raj Datta suffered in a State-wide swing against Labor, making it tough to gain any ground even in the party's traditional areas. 

He said at the weekend:  "It is a pity the fat won over the meat".

But he could still get two seats, and do a deal with the independents.

Surrounding councils saw similar swings to the Liberals, though Burwood stuck with Labor and Mayor John Faker's team.

Saturday night's count was a rollercoaster ride for Strathfield.

At 9.15 pm on Saturday night, with just 1370 formal votes counted, it was virtually neck and neck for the Liberals and Labor, with Strathfield First and the Unity Party also shoulder-to-shoulder.

But shortly afterwards, with over 3,000 formal votes checked off, the Liberals began to pull away, and Strathfield First looked like emerging strongly in a tight fight with United Strathfield.

At the 5,000 votes mark, the Liberals were well ahead of their 2008 showing. As counting hit 10,000, the Liberals had twice Labor's share of the vote, while Strathfield First was leaving other independents trailing.

By the close, the Liberals had  45.10 percent of the vote, while Labor had 22,and independents 29 per cent.

The two sole independents running, Philip Havea and Ed Crematy, polled 0.65 percent and 0.50 percent respectively.

Voters give the thumbs up for Strathfield's bid to become a city, with with almost 66 percent saying "yes" and 34 percent saying they disapproved of the move.

Turnout was not as strong as had been hoped.  Despite early signs that voters were showing real interest in the poll, 17,290 turned out at the polling booths - at 80 percent, the same as four years ago.

Renee Chalmers, the Office Manager of the Burwood Returning Office which looks after Strathfield,Burwood and Ashfield, had suggested there was a stronger turnout than expected 

Polling Manager at Chalmers Road polling station, Phil Barley said: “For the most part it was very busy. It was a moderate start with a surge at the very beginning and from 10.30am to 4pm we were flat-out”

The 21,360-strong electoral roll had the task of  deciding who should take up seven seats on the council, and whether or not Strathfield should bid to change its status from municipality to a city.

On offer was a field of 33 candidates: two independents, and the rest from Liberal, Labor, StrathfieldFirst, United Strathfield and the Unity Party.

Supporters from all sides stood outside the grounds of popular polling stations such as the Chalmers Road and Homebush Public Schools to make a last bid for votes, giving the day a carnival atmosphere.

Party leaders said the spring weather and good nature of the final days of campaigning meant polling day was "fun" - a tribute to the way Strathfield and its candidates have handled this election.

When Ourstrathfield reporters spoke to voters, most knew who their local candidates were and what they stood for - but there were a few who said they would simply vote along party lines.

Liberal team leader Vaccari spoke to electors outside the Homebush West Public School and said his party has had a great response from the community.

“It’s been a great day and the team has been hard at work,” he said. “We’re getting good feedback and it has just been a great day to be out and about speaking to the voters of the Strathfield area.”

At Homebush Public School, Strathfield First leader Helen McLucas chatted with queues of electors. Marlene Doran, another candidate Strathfield First’s ticket joined McLucas at the entrance gates.

“It’s been a fun day and we have been getting a great response,” she said. “The atmosphere out in Homebush is amazing and all the supporters of the different parties are getting along. We’re all having a laugh and sharing some jokes.”

Labor leader Raj Datta echoed the sentiment, adding he is hopeful for some positive results at the end of his campaign.

“It’s going well and I am hoping to see some good results,” he said. “But the main thing is, everyone is having fun – especially my volunteers.”

Candidates from all sides have been urging electors to be sure to use their vote as crucial issues like transport, planning and amalgamation may be decided in the next four years.

Some voters were particularly passionate about using their Local Government vote to send a message to the parties at State and Federal level.

Anthony Smith supported Labor because he was “unhappy with the way Liberals are handling themselves at the State level.”

He said: “I want a message to be sent to them at this level. They’re not listening to people. I think they’ve railroaded injured workers of NSW,”

Another elector voted for Liberal for federal reasons. Gus Srour said: “I love Liberal politics and it is good for Australia. I like their federal strategy.”

Other voters mentioned the expansion of the ACU and amalgamation as issues.

According to a poll of 100 electors conducted by the Scene, voters were most worried about traffic, the expansion of the Australian Catholic University, planning laws, crime and amalgamation. 

The Liberals pledged a new Crime Safety Committee, while Labor promised resident groups to represent what they claimed were “forgotten areas” of the municipality.

Strathfield First were running an anti-amalgamation ticket and questioned why candidates would stand when they live outside the area.

United Strathfield and Strathfield First both claimed they wanted to keep politics out of the council chamber. United maintained it would maximise the community benefits of any Town Centre development.

The Unity Party and the Liberals were the only parties to have a preference deal. Ed Crematy financed his own campaign on anti-amalgamation, crime and the ACU.

There were many representatives from the Chinese, Indian and Korean communities among the candidates.

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