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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 December 2007, 14:49 GMT
Australia's Howard 'loses seat'
Maxine McKew
Ms McKew paid tribute to Mr Howard in her victory speech
The Australian Labor Party candidate who contested outgoing Prime Minister John Howard's seat in last week's general election has claimed victory.

If Maxine McKew's win is confirmed, Mr Howard will become only the second sitting Australian Prime Minister ever to lose his own seat in an election.

"Bennelong is now a Labor seat for the first time," said Ms McKew.

The Labor Party, led by Kevin Rudd, won overall victory in the election, ending Mr Howard's 11 years in power.

Tight race

The race in the Bennelong constituency had been very tight, and a final result could not be declared until postal and absentee votes had been counted.

"One week after the polls opened I can now say that in Bennelong we are 2,100 votes ahead, we have 51.25% of the two-party vote, so we are comfortably ahead," Ms McKew told reporters.

I would like to acknowledge John Howard's long years of public service
Maxine McKew

Although the Australian Electoral Commission has also formally declared the seat for Labor, Mr Howard has not yet conceded victory to Ms McKew.

In her victory speech, Ms McKew paid tribute to Mr Howard and his long political career.

"I would like to acknowledge John Howard's long years of public service," she said.

"He gave 30 years to public life and that should be acknowledged."

Mr Howard has already been replaced as leader of the Liberal Party by former Defence Minister Brendan Nelson.

Critics from within his party have said Mr Howard should have stepped down in advance of the election and made way for long-serving Treasurer Peter Costello.

Mr Costello himself said he thought it would have been "helpful" if there had been a "transition" before the 2007 election.

Ms McKew has already been given a job in Mr Rudd's new Labor government, as parliamentary secretary to the prime minister and cabinet

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