Australia’s ruling coalition risks losing its parliamentary majority at a crucial election on Saturday that could deliver a “devastating blow” to prime minister Scott Morrison.

Polls indicated the Liberal party could lose the conservative-leaning Sydney seat of Wentworth for the first time since the party was founded more than 70 years ago.  

A loss would force the Liberal-National coalition to rely on cross-bench MPs to avoid a no-confidence vote and would place intense pressure on Mr Morrison ahead of a general election, due early next year.

The seat was previously held by Malcolm Turnbull, the former prime minister who was ousted by his party in August and subsequently resigned.

Voters in the seat, like many across the nation, have been appalled by the infighting that has led to the removal of four Coalition and Labor leaders in the past eight years.

Mr Morrison was widely criticised for announcing that he would consider following Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. 

The proposal, which was heavily criticised by Palestinians and by Indonesia, Australia’s Muslim-majority northern neighbour, was widely seen as a bid to appeal to the sizable Jewish vote in Wentworth. 

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A leaked internal Liberal poll, published this week in The Australian, showed the Liberal candidate Dave Sharma, a former ambassador to Israel, trails his main rival, Kerryn Phelps, by 45 per cent to 55 per cent. 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison walks with his wife Jenny and his daughters after the swearing-in ceremony in Canberra, Australia August 24Credit:

Dr Phelps is a well-known doctor, as well as being Jewish and a prominent gay rights campaigner, which should work in her favour in a seat with large Jewish and gay communities.

Adding to the Liberal’s challenges, Alex Turnbull, the son of the former prime minister, has actively campaigned for voters to abandon his father’s party.

Mr Turnbull, an investment manager who lives in Singapore, said the Liberal party has been hijacked by “extremists” and “crazies” who were forcing it to adopt extreme positions on climate change and refugees.

“The Liberal party has been taken over, frankly, by extremists on the hard right who aren’t particularly motivated to win an election and aren’t particularly motivated to serve the general public,” he said. "They just want to pursue a crazy agenda."

Mr Morrison has campaigned heavily in the seat but appeared to be bracing for a loss, saying he was prepared to govern without a parliamentary majority.

“As prime minister you have got to deal with things that come your way from out of the blue every single day, that is the job,” he said.

Michelle Grattan, a political commentator, said a Liberal loss would be a “devastating blow for the Prime Minister”.

“A loss wouldn’t mean the fall of the Morrison Government,” she wrote on The Conversation website. “But it would make its operations harder, unsettle the backbench, likely add to the turmoil in the Nationals, and further strengthen [Labor leader] Bill Shorten’s already very good prospects.”

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