A candidate from Australia's opposition party has claimed victory on Sunday, July 5 in a close by-election seen as a referendum on Prime Minister Scott Morrison's handling of bushfires and novel Coronavirus pandemic.

Kristy McBain, the candidate from center-left Labor Party, has claimed a narrow win over Fiona Kotvojs of Morrison's conservative party in the electorate of Eden-Monaro.

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"I'm very pleased and honored to be the next member for Eden-Moreno," McBain said in televised remarks.

Election Battle in Australia

McBain received 50.58% of the votes, while Kotvojs got 49.42%, according to the Australian Electoral Commission's website.

Although not a major blow to Morrison - the results will not affect the balance of power in parliament - McBain's apparent victory shows that a recent rebound in the prime minister's approval ratings has not decisively translated into votes.

Morrison's uniting management style in the COVID-19 pandemic and his decisive measures have made him the country's most popular leader in a decade.

That followed a steep decline in his popularity at the start of the year over his handling of the devastating bushfires that killed dozens of people and millions of animals, charring vast swaths of land.

"It has been an election that had been fought on local issues first and foremost," said McBain, whose electorate on the south coast of New South Wales state has suffered severely from the bushfires.

(With inputs from agency)