By Recep Sakar

MELBOURNE (AA) – Australians are heading to the polls Saturday to choose a new parliament and prime minister.

Voting started at 8 a.m. local time (2200 GMT) and will end at 6 p.m. (0800 GMT).

Some 16.5 million Australians are registered to vote in the elections, which are compulsory.

Citizens above the age of 18 are eligible to vote. Those who abstain from voting will be fined.

Turks living in the country also went to the polls.

“We joined Australia’s elections. We cast our votes. Best wishes,” Sedat Gucler, one of the Turkish-origin voters, told Anadolu Agency.

Australia’s parliament has 150 seats in the House of Representatives for which members are elected for a three-year term.

Forty Senate seats from a total of 76 are also up for grabs.

Australian authorities established early voting centers in the three weeks leading up to the polls for those who wanted to vote ahead of election day.

Some 2.6 million people had cast their ballots by May 13.

Australians can also post their votes to the election body until polls close on election day.

The polls will decide whether the conservative Liberal Party led by current Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a policeman’s son, will continue its term or if the Labor Party led by Bill Shorten will take over.

Australia has seen six changes of prime minister in the past 12 years. The political instability in one of the world’s oldest democracies is ascribed to internal party fights.

After the voting period ends, first the House of Representative votes will be counted followed by the Senate.

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