Both major parties have suffered recently from leadership upheaval over the last terms, as Labor’s vote dropped in the polls, before recovering most of that ground.
Echoing Brown-Olsen rivalry which damaged the Liberal government in the 1990s, the Liberal Party has suffered from successive leadership battles since former Premier Rob Kerin stepped down in 2006.
Conservative Iain Evans took over as Liberal leader, and Leader of the Opposition, after the 2006 election. Evans had served as Kerin’s deputy from 2005 to 2006. He was replaced in 2007 by Martin Hamilton-Smith, thanks to deputy leader and moderate Vickie Chapman switching her support to Hamilton-Smith.
Hamilton-Smith’s leadership lasted two years, being damaged in 2009 by the Liberal Party’s loss in the Frome by-election, triggered by Rob Kerin’s retirement, and after accusations against the ALP regarding the acceptance of Scientology donations turned out to be false. Hamilton-Smith’s leadership was challenged after frontbencher Mitch Williams resigned, and in July 2009 he called a leadership spill.
Hamilton-Smith defeated his deputy Vickie Chapman by a single vote, 11 votes to 10. Four days later, a second spill was held without Hamilton-Smith as a candidate, and Isobel Redmond, with Hamilton-Smith’s support, defeated Chapman 13 votes to 9. Steven Griffiths was elected as Redmond’s deputy.
Redmond led the Liberal Party to the 2010 election, which saw the Liberal Party win a majority of the two-party-preferred vote, but failed to win enough seats. The ALP only lost net two seats, thanks to swings being concentrated in safe seats.
Redmond continued as Liberal leader following the election, with former leader Martin Hamilton-Smith taking up the deputy leadership, narrowly defeating another former leader, Iain Evans. Redmond made it clear that she did not support Hamilton-Smith in the role, and within the week he resigned, with Mitch Williams taking on the role.
The Liberal Party performed strongly in the polls following the 2010 election, and the Liberal two-party-preferred vote peaked at 57% for July-September 2012. Not long after this, Redmond was challenged by Hamilton-Smith, with Steven Marshall challenging Williams for the deputy’s position.
Redmond defeated Hamilton-Smith by one vote, but Marshall defeated Williams for the deputy leadership.
Redmond resigned from the leadership in January 2013, and shortly afterwards Steven Marshall was elected unopposed as Leader of the Opposition.
While this was going on, the governing Labor Party underwent its own leadership conflict.
As of the 2010 election, Mike Rann had served as Premier for eight years, and ALP leader for over fifteen years.
In the aftermath of the 2010 state election, when the ALP had managed to hold on despite losing the popular vote, the ALP’s vote kept declining in the polls, and by the middle of 2011 party powerbrokers fell in behind Jay Weatherill to succeed Rann.
Mike Rann announced his plans to step down in mid-2011, and he retired as Premier in October 2011, and retired from Parliament in early 2012. His seat of Ramsay, and the neighbouring seat of Port Adelaide, formerly held by his Deputy Premier Kevin Foley, both went to by-elections in early 2012 which were won by the ALP.
Jay Weatherill had first been elected in 2002, and had served as a minister since his first days in the Parliament.