Australia's ruling alliance close to victory
The ruling Liberal-National coalition appears to be inching towards victory in the Australian election.
Counting continued on Wednesday in electorates where the result has been too close to call.
The Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) says the government has won 71 seats in the lower house and could reach an absolute majority of 76.
The close result surprised many analysts, who thought the coalition would retain key marginal seats.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said he accepts responsibility for the government's mediocre performance, with more than 20 coalition MPs losing their seats at the poll. He said that disillusionment with mainstream parties was also partly to blame.
The ABC's election analyst, Antony Green, says the government will win 73 seats at minimum and will hold more seats than the opposition Labor Party.
Postal votes favoured the government during Wednesday's counting.
Too close to call
Results in a number of electorates are extremely tight. In one seat, Queensland's Forde, the Liberal candidate leads by just 94 votes. Others may not be declared until next week.
If the coalition does not win 76 seats, it faces a "hung parliament" and will need to do a deal with independent crossbenchers to form government.
The coalition would likely attempt to do a deal with Queensland rural MP Bob Katter, a former National Party member. It would also seek support from the Nick Xenophon Team's newly elected MP Rebekha Sharkie, a former Liberal Party staffer.
Labor is unlikely to have the numbers to form a minority government.
Australia has had five prime ministers in the past six years. The poor showing during the coalition's re-election campaign has led to speculation about Mr Turnbull's position.
"It's too early for definitive judgments … it will take time to absorb the learnings from the campaign," he told a press conference in Sydney.
"I want to make it quite clear that as Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal party I take full responsibility for our campaign.
"There is no doubt that there is disillusion with the mainstream parties and we respect that."
Some MPs have accused Mr Turnbull of running a poor campaign and opposition leader Bill Shorten has repeatedly called on the prime minister to step down.