Australian Labor Party edges closer to victory

Prime Minister Julia Gillard edged closer to retaining power in Australia yesterday when an independent lawmaker said he would support her centre-left Labor Party to form Australia's first minority government in almost seven decades.

A bloc of three independent kingmakers will now decide whether Labor will govern for a second three-year term or whether a conservative Liberal Party-led coalition will form the next administration, after 21 August elections failed to give any party a majority.

The conservative coalition now needs the backing of all three remaining uncommitted independents to reach a 76-seat majority in the 150-seat House of Representatives, while Labor needs only two.

Independent Andrew Wilkie announced his decision to back Labor after meetings with Ms Gillard and Liberal leader Tony Abbott.