Liberal candidate Jo Palmer has slightly increased her lead over independent candidate Janie Finlay in the upper house election for Rosevears.
Elections for the seats of Rosevears and Huon were held on Saturday.
After the counting of 4500 postal votes in each division on Sunday, Ms Palmer holds 41.8 per cent of first preference votes, followed by Ms Finlay with 30.4 per cent, with 81 per cent of the votes counted.
In Huon, Labor candidate Bastian Seidel has also kept his lead over incumbent independent Robert Armstrong.
Dr Seidel leads 31.5 per cent to Mr Armstrong’s 18.9 per cent, with 82 per cent of the votes counted.
The final results of the elections will not be known until after August 11, the cut-off date for returning postal votes, when preferences will be distributed.
The Tasmanian Electoral Commission said up to 1500 Rosevears and 1300 Huon postal votes could still be returned.
Political analyst Kevin Bonham said for Ms Finlay to win in Rosevears she would need 85 per cent of Labor and Greens preferences if no votes were exhausted and for the votes held by independents Vivienne Gale and David Fry to be split evenly.
“This is verging on impossible,” Dr Bonham said but noted the counting of provisional and out of division votes may favour Ms Finlay.
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Political analyst Richard Herr said he did not expect the distribution of preferences to work against Ms Palmer because she was not a polarising candidate.
“In Jo Palmer’s case, I would expect there would be people who voted for her as their second and third preference,” Professor Herr said.
“She will get that last 10 per cent that she needs to get over the line.”
Professor Herr said party candidates had done well in this election because in both cases the parties had sought out candidates whose personalities would get them across the line.
“These aren’t necessarily ideologically motivated individuals – they were recruited by parties more because of their electability than their long service to the party,” he said.
“We know that in the case of Jo Palmer she was approached by both major parties.”
Premier Peter Gutwein said while it was too early to call Rosevears, the fact Ms Palmer had received the most primary votes to date was a strong endorsement of the Liberal party’s policies and plan for Tasmania.
“We are cautiously optimistic that Jo will win the seat after postal votes are counted, preferences are distributed and the vote is finalised in coming days,” Mr Gutwein said.
Loss of independence a concern
Should Ms Palmer and Dr Seidel win their seats, Tasmania’s upper house will have a majority of party members for the first time.
Professor Herr said he was worried if the house became fully partisan it would lose its purpose as the house of review.
“It will lose some of its relevance as a second chamber, as a source of sober reflection on government policy and as a vehicle for accountability,” he said.
He said committees in the lower house did not work because they were party dominated.
“The upper house committees have been the ones that have provided most of the executive oversight and review and did if these committees become dominated by partisan considerations, their function changes,” he said.
Murchison independent MLC Ruth Forrest said it was disappointing two party members looked likely to enter the upper house because this was not the best use of the Legislative Council.
“Party members are well-suited to the lower house. The independent voices and diversity of voices are more important in the upper house if it is to be a true house of review,” she said.
“It’s not a reflection of the people who stood, it’s a reflection on their status as party members.”
Greens leader Cassy O’Connor congratulated the likely winners and the Greens candidates for their efforts during the election but said dominance of party members in the upper house meant the Liberals and Labor had a majority voting bloc.
“It’s the Coles and Woolworths story where there won’t be enough diversity and individual views being put forward,” Ms O’Connor said.
Analyst calls Huon
Dr Bonham said it was clear Dr Seidel would win Huon marking the first time the seat has been won by Labor since 1942.
Dr Seidel said the result so far was promising and he was deeply humbled.
“I’m cautiously optimistic we will get over the line,” he said.
“We ran a very positive campaign. It was about better jobs, it was about better healthcare, it was about getting people an ambulance on time and that really resonated with the community.
“People wanted a strong advocate and that’s why they voted for Labor, and me personally.”
Labor leader Rebecca White said her party was thrilled to see the result in Huon.
“Now the people of Huon will have a strong advocate for them in the Tasmanian Parliament,” Ms White said.
Ms White said should Dr Seidel win the seat, this would not be the first time Labor had five seats in the upper house and members had always and would continue to fulfill their responsibilities in scrutinising legislation and working with other members.