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Close race expected in ACT election

AAP logoAAP 11/10/2016 Katina Curtis

The tale of the ACT election is one of a long-in-the-tooth government and an opposition chafing to win power.

But it's also about two leaders competing in the polls for the first time in an expanded electoral system.

Labor, which has reigned over the ACT since 2001, would rack up two decades in power if it wins Saturday's poll.

"There's a mood for change across the town. There is a smell around this government," Liberal opposition leader Jeremy Hanson tells AAP.

"We've also been a very credible, very professional opposition, we are ready for government."

Chief Minister Andrew Barr points out he's the longest serving member of the government, even though he's only been in the Legislative Assembly for eight years and the top job for two.

"We've demonstrated that we can renew in office," he says.

The known unknown in Saturday's election is a shake-up of electorates, with the assembly expanding from 15 members to 25.

The territory has been carved up into five electorates each with five MLAs, likely making it harder for minor parties and independents to get a look in.

It's a near certainty Labor and the Liberals will get 10 seats each.

Shane Rattenbury is likely retain his seat in the central Canberra electorate of Kurrajong for the Greens while the minor party could possibly pick up another seat in Murrumbidgee, where former MLA Caroline Le Couteur is seeking a return.

Which of the two major parties forms a government comes down to which of them wins the fifth seat in the other electorates.

Punters have Labor at short odds to retain government.

Only once in the 27 years of self-government have Canberra voters elected a majority government.

For the past two terms Labor has governed with the support of the Greens.

That coalition was strengthened after the 2012 election with Mr Rattenbury serving as a cabinet minister.

He believes the minor party's influence has refreshed Labor and made the ACT an even more progressive jurisdiction.

Mr Hanson acknowledges the electorate seems to trend progressive but says every election is different and, as a moderate Liberal, he occupies the political centre.

But Mr Barr believes Canberrans have learned the lesson from the federal sphere of what happens when conservatives take power.

"They're also seeing now what a conservative Liberal government led by a captive progressive leader is like too, and it's no different from the Abbott experience," he said.

Both major parties are offering similar policies in most areas.

The campaign has largely boiled down to a battle over the transport future of Canberra and what the national capital's major thoroughfare will look like.

Labor has signed contracts and turned sods for a light rail connection from Gungahlin to the city and plans to extend it to Woden as soon as possible.

The Liberals say its a giant waste of money, vowing to tear up contracts, redirect the money to education and health and have dedicated bus lanes and more bus routes instead.

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