Richmond Constituency election results (18 September 1999):
Australian Labour Party (ALP) 55%
Liberals 29% (8,322 first preference votes)
Militant Socialist Organisation (MSO) 12.25% (3,463 first preference votes).
Postal votes still have to come in and MSO members expect our actual vote to rise.
We scored 15.2% and 15.19% at two polling booths. Our lowest polling booth result was 6%.
The MSO easily got their deposit back (4% required) and beat their target vote of 5%. Our result was overwhelmingly a working class youth vote, with also support from a layer of older ex-CP supporters.
Across Victoria State (5 million people) there was a huge swing to the ALP (The elections are based on a form of proportional representation). The ALP appear to have come from 15 seats behind the Liberals to just one or two. It looks like the Liberals will just hold onto power in the Victoria State parliament. However in Richmond, where we offered a real socialist alternative, the ALP vote actually dropped by 6.5%. Our vote represents one of the largest ‘independent socialist’ votes since World War Two .
During the last Victoria State elections in 1996 the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) stood as the ’Left alternative’ in Richmond. The results then were as follows:
Richmond constituency results, 1996:
As can be seen the ALP have suffered a big fall in their vote in Richmond, going against the State trend. The DSP only managed a third of our 1999 vote.
Other Left results
Today’s excellent MSO vote is also way ahead of the other Left party results. In the constituency of Melbourne the DSP received 6%. In the constituency of Northcote the Progressive Labour Party (PLP) received 8%.
Last year the PLP won 4.4% in another election and this year 8%. Our comrades work with the PLP where we can and it us useful to develop class politics. But we have always openly argued against the reformist ideas that dominate the new small party. We argue for bold socialist policies to put to the electorate. Clearly we have shown revolutionary socialists can make spectacular gains at the polls with a fighting record and skillfull programme.
THE DSP which claims to have a membership three to four times the size of the MSO and does have quite a big apparatus (including a weekly paper), only gave out very general material to the electorate in the Melbourne seat they fought. This material dealt with the need for socialism abstractly. The DSP has also called for UN and Australian intervention into East Timor in recent weeks, a demand that many workers and youth have temporarily supported in desperation. The MSO withstood this pressure and put forward the class position of the CWI on East Timor in the elections.
THE Richmond seat is a traditional working class and labour stonghold. In recent years parts of it were supposed to have been ‘yuppified’ making it difficult terrain for socialists. Other areas of the constituency have a big south Vietnamese population, who according to the pundits should be hostile to all socialist parties. Yet in some of the most densely populated Vietnamese areas we received an excellent 9.63% and 6.1% at the polling booths.
Over 45 comrades and supporters worked at the polling booths on polling day. During the campaign we distributed over 23,000 manifestos (in English, and part in Turkish, Vietnamese and Greek), and many voting cards and posters. Many people commended comrades for being "the only party that bothered to give out leaflets". The other parties had to pay people to do their canvassing work.
Comrades have deep roots in Richmond. Our candidate Steve Jolly helped lead the famous Richmond School struggle a few years ago. We also have a high profile and much respect for our on-going Heroin campaign. The papers reflected some of this grassroots support. We got ‘fantastic coverage’. The Melbourne Times implicitly encouraged people to vote for Steve.
MSO comrades plan now to quickly build on this huge success. For example, public meetings will be held to help recruit contacts already made and from the new layers that will become interested in us following our spectacular results. Comrades expect much media attention over the next few days.