SYDNEY - A poisonous Australian election campaign rea
ches its climax tomorrow, 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, the two rivals launched into a last-ditch blitz to sway voters, Mr Abbott in Brisbane and Mr Rudd in Canberra.
Opinion polls show that Mr Abbott is the clear favourite to become Australia's 29th prime minister, with the latest predictions indicating he will get a landslide 87 seats to ruling Labor's 60.
Mr Rudd has struggled for traction after toppling Ms Julia Gillard, Australia's first female leader, just weeks before calling the election - vengeance for his ouster at her hands just before the 2010 polls.
According to political analysts, some 80 per cent of electors would typically have made up their minds by the time Australia's polls roll around every three years, leaving the campaign focused on swing voters.
"These are neither interested nor involved in the issues, do not much care about the outcome, are largely voting because they are obliged to do it, and will make up their minds on the day," said Mr Barry Jones, former Labor minister and a Melbourne University fellow.
"Reaching these voters is not by raising serious issues, setting out a vision or challenge, it's by emphasising fear or by entertaining them, appealing to quick jokey references or offering bribes."
The result: A campaign dominated by slogans and "gotcha" moments, with a host of eccentric minor party candidates including WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
That the conservatives have adopted Labor's policies on health, disability and education has not helped the contest for ideas.
"They had to try and give the impression that the last three years didn't happen, that Kevin Rudd is absolutely new. But that's just not worked because the voters are not that superficial," said Monash University politics analyst Nick Economou.
"The problem for Labor is that voters have made up their minds, and there's nothing they can do to re-engage the electorate."