The good bus Australia has been chugging along without a driver now for several weeks, but with a boost from independent suspension we’ve nearly reached destination PM.

Either today or tomorrow independents Bob Katter, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott — who’ve spent the last fortnight prowling parliament house, dining with ex-PMs, and studying costings — will announce whether they are supporting a government led by Tony Abbott or Julia Gillard.

The momenteum that swept Abbott up during the election campaign seems to have thrown him back down amongst a difficult few weeks of negotiations, and several papers are leading with the Coalition’s pessimism in gaining government.

Will the NBN be enough to convince the country conservatives to head over to Labor? Can the Coalition guilt the independents with their conservative backgrounds? Or will they split and force us to (gulp) head back to the polls? And how is any government going to please all the different groups now involved?

Here’s a look at what the commentariat are predicting:

The Australian

Sid Maher and Paul Maley: Coalition’s hopes for power sinks

The Coalition is increasingly pessimistic about its chances of winning the support of the three rural independents it needs to take power.

Kenneth Wiltshire: On all counts, Coalition deserves Independents

Wilkie is no longer a true independent; he is a captive of the Greens and Labor. It might also be reasonably conjectured that the citizens of these three country electorates would be further alienated from Labor now that Julia Gillard has entered her Faustian pact with the Greens.

Russell Trood: Alliance partners are worlds apart

On issue after issue, Labor is, as it were, from Venus and the Greens are from Mars. And in case it has escaped the independents’ attention, the divergence in Greens and Labor ideas on foreign and defence policy is as great as in any area.

Foreign policy was little debated during the election campaign, but this will change if the Labor-Greens alliance is to be an element of a new Gillard government.

Sydney Morning Herald

Phillip Coorey: Abbott is facing a victory too far away

According to those familiar with negotiations with both parties, Gillard has outperformed Abbott. One who witnessed a round of talks with both leaders said Abbott tended to lecture more than negotiate and, in one meeting, broke into a spiel against Labor – as if he were still on the election campaign.

If Abbott prevails this week, he will be a Liberal superhero. If he falls short, he will not be diminished. But the game will change.

The Age

Michelle Grattan and David Humphries: Windsor makes power play for the bush

As the nation awaits the outcome of the long-ago election, which could come today or perhaps tomorrow, one of the key independents has demanded big changes in the way government handles the needs of regional Australia.

The Daily Telegraph

Malcolm Farr: Bitterness will surface after the dust settles

Scores of MPs on both sides will have been writing seething lists of reasons why their party did not succeed.

They have been tucked into back pockets for now, but the creation of a minority government, no matter the flavour, will see them taken out of storage and angry debates and accusations will follow.

Simon Benson: Fed up voters sick of delays

Most Australians are now demanding a resolution to the federal election deadlock and would prefer another election over a hung parliament, regardless of which party the independents decide to back.

Herald Sun

Ben Packham: Coalition hopes of forming government slip

A wave of pessimism is sweeping Coalition ranks as senior Opposition MPs tip that Labor will seal a deal to form government as early as today.