Victorian ‘Greenslide’ fails to eventuate but progressives on track for upper house balance of power

<span>Photograph: James Ross/AAP</span>
Photograph: James Ross/AAP

As her forecast “Greenslide” failed to materialise on Sunday, the Victorian Greens leader, Samantha Ratnam, turned her attention to hopes the party can hold the balance of power in the upper house to influence a returned Daniel Andrews government.

Ratnam was buoyant on Saturday night, declaring a surge in support off the back of early election results that showed a number of lower house seats in play for the minor party.

But while the Greens picked up the historically safe Labor seat of Richmond to add to the party’s three seats in the previous parliament, a strong flow of prepoll and postal votes to their opponents saw any additional hopes largely evaporate over the next 24 hours. Their best chance of an additional seat remains Northcote, where they trailed Labor by 865 votes on Sunday afternoon.

Related: ‘Change-or-die moment’: Victorian Liberals facing worst primary vote share in 70 years

Addressing reporters at lunchtime on Sunday, Ratnam said she was confident the party could pick up three seats in the upper house, where she was the only Greens MP in the last term.

The Greens candidate Katherine Copsey has been elected for the Southern Metropolitan region and the party also hopes to secure representation in the North-Eastern Metropolitan and Western Victorian regions.

“We’re willing to work constructively and cooperatively with this Labor government to get really progressive reform in areas like climate, housing, integrity and so much more,” Ratnam said. “We’re in a powerful position to be able to do that.”

The electoral analyst Ben Raue said the Greens were likely to share the upper house balance of power, alongside other progressive parties that could include the Animal Justice, Reason and Legalise Cannabis parties.

Labor relied on a similar progressive crossbench to pass legislation in the last parliament, but Raue predicted the government’s position in the upper house would worsen.

“Labor will have a smaller number than they do now [and] there will be a progressive bloc that the Greens will be part of. That is the most feasible pathway forward,” he told Guardian Australia.

The Greens had high hopes of securing the balance of power in the lower house but Labor cruised to victory and may yet exceed the 55 of 88 seats it won at the 2018 election. The Greens had won 10.9% of the lower house primary vote as of Sunday afternoon, which was up slightly on 2018 (10.7%), but a smaller share than the party received in both the 2010 (11.2%) and 2014 (11.5%) elections.

Pressed on this, Ratnam said the party had received significant swings on a two-party-preferred basis. The Liberals’ decision to preference Labor last across the state meant opposition preferences flowed to the Greens.

“We know the count is still continuing,” she said. “There’s still races that are too close to call, but this is a strong result for the Greens.”

Related: Returning Victorian premier Daniel Andrews says ugly political campaigning must end

Addressing media on Sunday, Andrews made a thinly veiled swipe at the Greens, saying “no member of my team is going to be sitting in the parliament as a result of Liberal party preferences”.

But Ratnam hit back, saying the party had won seats because “voters care about the issues that we were willing to engage them on”.

“And we’ve seen the progressive vote rise right across the city,” she said.

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, on Sunday dismissed talk of a “Greenslide” and inflated claims about the shift towards minor parties.

“I know that some will declare that the major party process is somehow not ever going to be successful again. Well, I lead a majority Labor government, Daniel Andrews has just been elected for a third term with a majority Labor government,” he told reporters on Sunday.

Labor and the Coalition received 72.1% of the primary vote during counting on Sunday afternoon, down from 78.1% in 2018.