Australian election clock ticks down on divisive campaign

Australian election clock ticks down on divisive campaign
Australian opposition leader Tony Abbott speaks to media in Sydney on September 4, 2013.

SYDNEY, New South Wales - A poisonous Australian election campaign reaches its climax on Saturday with conservative opposition leader Tony Abbott on track to become the nation's next prime minister at the expense of Labor's Kevin Rudd.

With more than one million votes already cast and a blackout on political adverts kicking in Thursday, the two rivals launched into a last-ditch blitz to sway voters - Abbott in Brisbane and Rudd in Canberra.

Opinion polls show Abbott as the clear favourite to become Australia's 29th prime minister, with the latest predictions showing he will take a landslide 87 seats to ruling Labor's 60.

Rudd has struggled for traction after toppling Julia Gillard, Australia's first female leader, just weeks before calling the election - vengeance for his own ouster at her hands just before the 2010 polls.

Voters have reacted with distaste over the brutal party coups, as well as the lowbrow tone of a campaign which has seen both sides descend into cheap shots and personality politics.

Undeterred, Rudd has vowed to fight until the polls close with the competing camps targetting electorates held by slender margins, hoping to secure what can sometimes come down to just a few hundred critical votes.

Some 1.1 million of Australia's 14.7 million registered voters have already cast their ballot at early polling centres and another 1.3 million will vote by post.

There is a ban on election ads running in the final days of the campaign, meaning the leaders and their candidates have to hit the hustings in the hopes of reaching uncommitted voters.

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