Rockhampton residents may have to wait until the end of this week to find out who has been elected as mayor of the central Queensland city.
Long-term city councillor Tony Williams, urban strategist Russell Claus and environmentalist Chris ‘Pineapple’ Hooper are the three frontrunners as the count continues on Sunday following Saturday’s election.
Mr Williams has about 25 per cent of the vote, followed by Mr Clause with about 15.5 per cent and Mr Hooper has garnered just over 12 per cent with about 80 per cent of the ballots counted, according to the Electoral Commission of Queensland.
Mr Hooper almost automatically became mayor, despite winning only 30 per cent of the vote in last year’s election, following Margaret Strelow’s resignation after she was found guilty of misconduct by the state’s Council Conduct Tribunal in November.
However, the state government controversially amended laws to ensure there would be a by-election on Saturday.
The ECQ told AAP there could still be twists and turns as optional preferential voting and postal ballots could still influence the outcome.
“Not everyone will preference, some people will preference just one, some will do five, others will do 17,” an ECQ official told AAP.
“So it does make the count a little bit more complicated with so many candidates and until we’ve done the preference count we can’t say anything.”
The ECQ does not expect to declare any winner until at least the second half of the coming week as ballots won’t be counted on the Australia Day public holiday.
The ECQ said that if a serving councillor did win the mayoral election there would have to be another by-election in Rockhampton for the council seat.
Mr Williams, who has been a councillor for 16 years, said he had been receiving text messages and congratulations but didn’t want to call it.
“It’s a strong indication that the numbers are there and they’re increasing,” he told the ABC.
“It could still change with preferences so we’ll just sit back and wait and see how that plays out.”
There is still a remote chance that due to the large field of candidates a winner will not gain more than 50 per cent of the vote, and may gain about the same amount of the vote that Mr Hooper won in the last mayoral election.