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Brits Head To Polls In Possibly Pivotal Election

by @ 8:40 am on May 6, 2010. Filed under England, Foreign Affairs

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After what can only be described as a General Election campaign unlike anything Great Britain has seen before, it’s all over but the voting:

LONDON — Concluding one of the most passionate election campaigns in years, Britain went to the polls on Thursday after a frantic race to the finish among politicians clamoring to persuade voters that they offer the best prospect of economic change and social renewal.

But the election, after 13 years of rule by Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Labour Party, was clouded by the possibility that it could end in stalemate with none of the three leading contenders securing the 326 seats needed for an absolute majority in the 650-seat Parliament and thus the uncontested right to choose the next prime minister.

Some 44 million people — roughly three quarters of the population — were registered to vote for their choices among 4,149 candidates at around 50,000 polling stations. Counting begins immediately after the polls close at 10 p.m. local time.

As early voters headed for polling stations, most opinion surveys and political analysts said the Conservative opposition leader, David Cameron, 43, seemed to hold a comfortable lead over his rivals — Mr. Brown and Nick Clegg, leader of the smaller opposition Liberal Democrats.

But the extent of his forecast victory, like the performance of his competitors, was far from clear.

The Guardian reports this morning that turnout is high, and that the final polls seem to suggest that the Tories will pull off a victory:

David Cameron was the first of the main party leaders to cast his vote today amid early signs that turnout in one of the most closely contested elections for decades will be high.

As the final polls showed the Conservatives on the brink of regaining power, the Tory leader smiled at reporters and photographers but made few comments at polling station at Spelsbury Memorial Hall in Witney, Oxfordshire.

“I am feeling good, I will leave it at that,” he said.

The final Guardian/ICM poll of the campaign showed the Conservatives with an eight-point lead over Labour, just short of what they need for an overall majority. The survey put the Conservatives on 36%, Labour on 28% and the Liberal Democrats on 26%. If the predictions are correct, it could leave Cameron just short of an overall majority, but close to being able to rule with the help of unionist parties.

Half an hour after Cameron voted, Gordon Brown and his wife, Sarah, turned up at the North Queensferry polling station, to cast their vote in the Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency.

Minutes later Nick Clegg, accompanied by his wife, voted at a polling station in Sheffield Hallam.

Polling stations opened at 7am, with the electorate having until 10pm to cast their votes. There were early signs of a high turnout. Tellers at polling stations in the London seat of Chingford and Woodford Green reported the busiest start to a general election polling day they could remember.

Polls close at 5pm EDT, results to follow several hours after that most likely.

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