Voters in Australia’s westernmost state have returned their center-left government to power in an “unparalleled” landslide, demonstrating popular support for the Labor party’s handling of COVID-19.
In Western Australia, a hub for the country’s lucrative resources sector, a strict pandemic border closure shut out other Australians for much of the past year.
The incumbent Labor government is projected to win 53 of the state’s 59 parliamentary seats, while the opposition conservative Liberal Party was all but wiped out - reduced to just two seats after Saturday’s election.
Public broadcaster ABC called it a “historic” and “unparalleled” win, in a sprawling state that often casts itself as distinct from the more populated eastern coast.
The crushing victory was led by state Premier Mark McGowan, who championed the prolonged border closures despite legal challenges and criticism from Australia’s ruling conservative government.
“The magnitude of what has happened today is not lost on me. But with it comes great responsibility,” McGowan said.
Most Australian leaders have enjoyed spikes in their popularity during the pandemic, as the country has been relatively successful at containing COVID-19.
But McGowan has been elevated to rockstar-like status in Western Australia, which has recorded fewer than 1,000 virus cases.
One fan even got a tattoo of McGowan’s likeness, and others have made viral TikTok videos in his honor.
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