SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s national elections have become too close to call, polls showed on Wednesday, as the ruling Conservative coalition narrowed the gap with the main opposition Labor party, three days before the country was due decides on a new government.

The centre-left Labor party’s lead over the Liberal-National coalition has fallen to 51-49% on a bipartisan preferential basis from 54-46% two weeks ago, a poll for the Sydney Morning Herald showed, while that a Guardian poll showed it had slipped one point to 48%.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the pre-election trends “really encouraging”.

Nearly 6 million voters out of an electorate of 17 million have already voted by mail or early voting in person, according to official data.

An additional 1.1 million postal votes have been received so far compared to the 2019 election.

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“If it’s close, that level of mail-in votes makes an election night indication of who forms government less likely,” Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers said, referring to the extra time needed to count mail-in votes. .

As Australia heads to the polls on May 21, the rising cost of living has dominated the latter stages of the campaign, with voters seeing it as the most critical issue in some polls.

Inflation rose twice as fast as wages, keeping real income in the red and causing voter angst as political parties await first-quarter wage data, due later Wednesday.

Labor acknowledged that the election would be close.

“We will work hard until the polls close,” shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers told ABC television.

(Reporting by Renju Jose; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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