If the question of who would be Australia's next prime minister was asked a year ago, the answer would have been obvious.
At the start of 2012, Opposition leader Tony Abbott was at the peak of his political career. He topped election surveys while Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her party, the Australian Labor Party, were languishing at the bottom due to perceptions of poor governance.
REUTERS Australia is actually witnessing a fierce battle being waged by two equally unpopular political leaders, one analyst said, essentially making the Julia Gillard-Tony Abbott tussle a contest of the best among the worst.
However, the past 12 months saw a shift in public perception, thanks to the misogyny accusations that Ms Gillard raised against Mr Abbott, bolstered by Aussies' belief that the latter has become too negative in his tirades against the Gillard-led government that the playing field has been leveled.
In a yearend commentary on the upcoming federal election, Jack the Insider, a blogger of The Australian, noted the change in the country's political landscape that took place in 2012.
"Earlier this year I had written that Gillard's leadership was tenuous and she would face a caucus revolt in the latter part of 2012 if she was unable to turn Labor's fortunes around. To some extent she was able to pull this off. While Labor's primary vote continues to languish in the low to mid 30s, her personal fortunes have risen and she continues to lead her opponent as preferred PM," the blogger observed.
He opined that the 2013 election will be a winner-take-all contest. "By the end of 2013, one or the other will be gone. 2010 was the preliminary bout. This one is for the belt, the cash and prizes. To the winner the spoils while the loser faces ignominy and enforced anonymity," he added.
For Ms Gillard, Jack the Insider said her main problem in 2013 would be to deal with several self-inflicted wounds which are quite big and numerous such as the promised budget surplus. For Mr Abbott, his main problem is that he is a deeply unpopular figure.
He noted that while the Coalition is blaming the Labor attack on their leader which resulted in his popularity dipping, Mr Abbott's "prognostication of the (carbon) tax's almost Old Testament consequences proved to be a hyperbole, leaving him with a credibility problem." The blogger pointed out the carbon tax issue is virtually dead and the Coalition would need to recalibrate their approach and style to regain lost voters' trust.
"Mr Abbott has spoken of a veritable black letter avalanche of coalition policy in the New Year. The question is can he pull it off when many Australians have pigeon-holed him as hyper-aggressive and interminably negative? Switching gears in politics is never easy and it will be harder for Mr Abbott than most," the blogger wrote.
He opined that while the coalition is still in the best shape to win the 2013 election for the country's 44th Parliament which must be held by Nov 30 with the precise date to be determined by Ms Gillard, Mr Abbott's substantial negative baggage would provide Labor an advantage.
This early, networks such as SkyNews, are preparing for coverage of the make-or-break elections.
The blogger said that given these circumstances, forecasting who will be the victor is a difficult task since the results would be similar to consulting the formation of tea leaves, disemboweling a goat or rubbing the bumps on one's head for credible results.
Given the threat of the U.S. falling down the fiscal cliff and the global economy still in a precarious stage, Jack the Insider said that the only safe prediction for the 2013 election result is that it would "be won or lost on the economy."
Australia is actually witnessing a fierce battle being waged by two equally unpopular political leaders, one analyst said, essentially making the Julia Gillard-Tony Abbott tussle a contest of the best among the worst.